22.06.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

Living in shifting media and information landscape

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On 27 June, the Second European Media and Information Literacy Forum (MIL) will kick off in Riga, Latvia. How can Media and Information Literacy be used in this shifting media landscape to ensure open and secure societies? This is the opening theme of the Forum that will, throughout three days, explore many different angles and approaches of MIL in Europe, but also in the world.

One of the biggest challenges of digital revolution is the transformation of citizens from passive users to active and critical users, content creators, wise disseminators, often even critically informed sources for media and information. Citizens (by this we mean metaphors of citizenship or types of citizenship) often find it hard to distinguish between facts, part-facts and rumors, propaganda and public relations, and sometimes out-right lies or misinformation that is posted on different Internet platforms, such as social media, blogs, websites.

Misinformation and security

It is difficult to know what information is credible and how to recognize false sources. This leads to uninformed citizens that can further make choices and decisions that are, consequently, based on misinformation.

In this context, there is a thin line between an open Internet and freedom of expression, and the misuse of media through censorship, promotion of hate speech, discourse of fear and the spread of political disinformation.   

Security is important. According to UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and information Sector, Frank La Rue, “security means protecting individuals, but you must also protect institutions and democratic systems. You cannot sacrifice any, because if you do, you are actually weakening democracy…”

What do citizens need to know and how is policy responding to it?

On one side, in this environment, the necessity for some forms of regulation exists, but it has to be balanced with knowledge among citizens how to “decode” the information and media content received through the media, technological intermediaries and other information providers, as well as how to wisely engage in cyberspace without harming themselves or others.

The lead plenary of the Forum will explore the increased need for MIL, it will also raise crucial questions on how MIL can be a tool for all stakeholders in the present information and communication environment, and how are governments responding to this need with specific policy solutions.

Among other stakeholders, the first conference day will host representatives of the media, libraries and Internet industries in reflecting and discussing on their roles in the empowerment of users with MIL competencies. Further on, throughout three working days, participants of the Forum will discuss how MIL can be used in interreligious understanding - an issue that can profoundly impact any divided society.

Participants will discuss the significance of media ethics and the role of self-regulatory mechanisms in strengthening trust in media. Different education approaches and experiences will be explored, as well as youth perspectives towards MIL. Of special significance - considering the context we all live in - is the topics on positioning MIL as a tool for countering rising radicalization and the use of hate speech.

The Second European Media and Information Literacy Forum (EU-MILINFO II) is organized by UNESCO, the European Commission, the Latvian Government and the Sub-Chapter of the Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL), under the theme “Media and Information Literacy in Europe: Citizens’ Critical Competencies for a Rights-Based, Transparent, Open, Secure and Inclusive Information Environment”. It will take place from 27 to 29 June 2016 in Riga, Latvia.

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