MDI at the UNESCO Global MIL Conference

Dates: 24-27 October 2017

Country: Jamaica, Kingston

Jamaica_MIL_1One of the main conclusions of the Seventh Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) Conference is that there is a need to talk about media and information literacy (MIL), but to limit the scope of it too. Each year there are more and more ideas and definitions of the concept of MIL. Only in Europe there are around 15,000 projects dealing with the issue, yet hardly anyone can answer a simple question – has anyone changed their media views or political affiliations after learning how (un) professional the media they are following have been? In other words, do we change our sources of information after learning how to critically asses them?

Still, more than 300 participants of the UNESCO MILID Conference held in Kingston presented truly innovative ways to inspire media consumers to deal with mis-, dis- and mal-information. The expression ‘fake news’ wasn’t a very popular and majority of the participants at the conference didn’t want to use it stating that it is a ‘inadequate’ term, or the term ‘hijacked by Trump’.

One of the inspiring projects was present by a public school teacher from  France,  Rose-Marie Farinella who  received the Global MIL Award for her innovation. The kids Jamaica_MIL_2Farinella works with take an oath on their computers’ mouse committing themselves to responsibly use their PCs. Understanding what ‘true’ information is should come before her pupils can understand what false information is. Farinella uses role playing games, drawing, fake images, Google images and maps to help validate information. Her students had created texts, drawings and videos expressing what they find.

At the conference in Kingtston Wilfried Runde from Deutsche Welle (Germany) presented equally appealing project  “Liar, Liar, pants on fire”. He identified a significant number of people on social media who regularly produce false news. According to Runde’s findings, any breaking news incident is immediately surrounded by a vast of false news presented in the form of memes, altered videos or old videos of similar incidents presented as new.

Speaking at the session on MIL and Gender Equality, Isabel Moya from the International Institute of Journalism in Cuba stressed that stereotypes of female images could be found anywhere, including in selfies. Through the project she runs, Moya tries to encourage Cuban teenagers to express themselves playfully and creatively by using illustrations and photos.

Wesley Gibbings from the Association of Caribbean Media Workers had to defend journalism from those who favoured social media and citizen journalism. He insisted that ‘old, good journalism’ still has a value. “People do not just need information, they needed understanding and ability to take action, and that’s where journalism comes in,” says Gibbings. He believes that the media industry, which had lost its monopoly, needs to take a hard look at itself, but this didn’t mean abdicating to ‘citizen journalism’ in a similar way as “you don’t board a plane and ask for a citizen pilot”. Gibbing says that media practitioners need MIL as much as media consumers.

Speaking at the panel on MIL as a tool for civic empowerment and engagement, the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) Executive Director Milica Pesic dismissed claims that traditional media have failed to be ‘influencers’.

“Only after the New York Times wrote about Harvey Weinstein’s inappropriate behaviour, that became a global story and actions are being taken. MDI believes that social media offer a great space for citizens – in particular those who belong to marganilised communities – to put their voice through. The new challenge is to find ‘an ear’ out of the homophily bubble where citizens are closed in with their own tribes,” said Pesic.

She insisted that MIL should be imposed more on older people since studies such as BREXIT and Youth conducted by the London School of Economics (LSE) show that young people in the UK have been better informed about the BREXIT consequences than the generation of their parents or grandparents.  As an example of youth civic engagement through MIL, Pesic mentioned Get the Trolls Out, a MDI project implemented in Europe. Thousands of young people have a chance, through the implementation of the project to fight hate speech against people of different religious believes by using memes, radio programmes, videos, blogs and cartoons.

The conference on 24 – 27 October was the first UNESCO MIL conference held in Jamaica and the first one where media and technology specialists, educators, activists, researchers were mixed with artists.  One of them, Ras Astor Black from The Regea Walk of Fame responded to the MDI request to assess the Conference and the urgent needs of his ‘stakeholders’.