16.11.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

Celebrations of the Global MIL Week 2016 around the globe


Global Media and Information (MIL) Literacy Week 2016 reverberated around the world with over 60 events in 30 countries. It started with the Feature Event in Sao Paolo, Brazil where over 300 participants from over 40 countries gathered. They discussed and analyzed MIL from many different perspectives and approaches in relation to policy, research, human rights, extremism and radicalization, economy, privacy, education, culture and many others. The Week culminated with high-level debates at the Brazilian National Congress organized by its communication committee.

Events around the world included workshops – such as for youth, as well as forums, virtual meetings, exhibitions, and campus screenings. View the events’ map.

The theme of the Global MIL week was New Paradigms for Intercultural Dialogue.

The MIL Week 2016 Feature event attracted interest globally with more than 200 submissions from over 60 countries in response to the call for paper and presentation proposals. Participants in the Feature Event – throughout four days consisting of 5 plenary sessions, 22 round tables and a full day devoted to youth – in concerted voices insisted on the indispensability of MIL to all individuals in today’s societies. Here are some highlights.

Radicalization and extremism: It’s not always about poverty, it’s also about the anger

It was heard throughout the Feature Event that the shifting media and information landscape, that profoundly influences our decisions and actions, is becoming more focused on feelings, rather than on facts – how something seems rather than what something really is.

“This raises the need for stronger inclusion of MIL initiatives in formal, non-formal and informal education, in order to foster the development of critical thinking” highlighted Mr. Alton Grizzle, Programme Specialist from UNESCO.

It was also suggested that anger, and not poverty, is often fueling young people into radicalization and extremism. Mr. Jordi Torrent from UNAOC (United Nations Alliance of Civilizations) and Mr. Olunufesi Suraj, a professor from the Lagos State University – suggested that MIL initiatives should be designed for those who are susceptible to engagement with radical and terrorist groups.

Counter narratives as counter-measures

The UNESCO-commissioned research presented by Ms. Divina Frau Meigs shows that the field of online radicalization of young people is still largely under-researched and under-theorized. The precise role of the Internet in the radicalization process needs to be explored with more care. The research acknowledges the efficiency of online propaganda but tends to describe the Internet as a facilitating environment rather than a driving force for radicalization. “There seems to be a developing trend for online counter-measures that are context-sensitive and challenge extremist representation, claims and hate speeches. Pro-active strategies tend to take two major forms: online counter-narratives and grassroots anti-propaganda initiatives, offline and online” said Ms. Frau Meigs.

Connecting youth across cultures – privacy important but neglected

The day devoted to youth at the Feature Event in Sao Paolo explored the avenues of infusing intercultural dialogue and tolerance into this connected world. Throughout two plenary sessions and more than 10 hands-on workshops, youth and adults debated on the importance of learning about different cultures, dispelling stereotypes, preventing radicalization and promoting safety and privacy online.

Ms. Adama Lee Bah, Head of the Interim GAPMIL Youth Committee stressed the importance of equal access to the media regardless of gender – as many cultures have lower expectations for girls than for boys. She also underlined the significance of privacy protection in youth involvement with the media.

On the same subject of privacy, Ms. Sherry Hope Culver presented the research conducted by Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) University Network and UNESCO. In its first findings, the research shows the vast majority of the youth surveyed indicated that privacy was important to them, 74%. However, it also shows that privacy is minimally addressed in MIL Education.

“Since 2014, Cyberspace Administration of China has hosted an annual event of ‘National Cybersecurity Week’, joining the efforts from government, agencies, enterprises and research institutes to raise peoples’ awareness of cyber security and to teach them the way of protecting themselves from harmful information on Internet, such as pornography, violence and terrorism” said Ms. Sun Aiping from Cyberspace administration of China.

Changing of both education and journalism

The profound shift in teaching and learning was at the focus of many conference sessions. Characterized by a content-centered system of education with information that is memorized, this system it is challenged by the existing instant access to knowledge. This also rises the need for MIL skills, to be used in the evaluation of information. In that sense, the libraries are also changing and becoming places of curation of information. Together with museums and archives, they are becoming more aware of their evolving role, providing support for their users not just to access information, but to have skills to process it as well.

The definition of journalism, as explained by Mr. Wilfried Runde, from Deutsche Welle (DW) Innovation team is also evolving. He presented the famous Carl Bernstein’s explanation of journalism as “the best obtainable version of the truth” and its development into “best obtainable version of data to reveal the truth”.

Global MIL Week 2016 was led by UNESCO in cooperation with the General Assembly of the Global Alliance for Partnerships in Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL), UNAOC and the Media and Information and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) University Network. The Global MIL Week 2016 Feature Event was celebrated from 2-5 November 2016 in São Paulo, Brazil.

In preparations for the Global MIL Week 2016, UNESCO launched a call for global projects, initiatives and voluntary commitments in order to create a database of global projects and initiatives on MIL. With 26 submissions received so far, the call will be ongoing until 2017.

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