Media and Information Literacy

Our brains depend on information to work optimally. The quality of information we engage with largely determines our perceptions, beliefs and attitudes. It could be information from other persons, the media, libraries, archives, museums, publishers, or other information providers including those on the Internet. 

People across the world are witnessing a dramatic increase in access to information and communication. While some people are starved for information, others are flooded with print, broadcast and digital content. Media and Information Literacy (MIL) provides answers to the questions that we all ask ourselves at some point. How can we access, search, critically assess, use and contribute content wisely, both online and offline? What are our rights online and offline? What are the ethical issues surrounding the access and use of information? How can we engage with media and ICTs to promote equality, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, peace, freedom of expression and access to information?

Through capacity-building resources, such as curricula development, policy guidelines and articulation, and assessment framework, UNESCO supports the development of MIL competencies among people. Free and open online courses are available for self-paced learning about MIL. Through media and information technologies, the Organisation facilitates networking and research through the Global Alliance for Partnerships on MIL (GAPMIL) and MIL University Network. The recently-launched MIL CLICKS social media initiative is also part of UNESCO’s strategy to enable media and information literate societies.

Online MIL and Intercultural Dialogue Courses

Faced with the choice between privacy and safety on the Internet, between freely expressing themselves and the ethical use of information, the media and technology – women, men and young boys and girls need new types of competencies. Media and information literacy (MIL) offers these competencies. Education for all must therefore include media and information literacy for all.

UNESCO’s push to achieve media and information literate societies recognizes that MIL in formal education is a necessity, but not a final stop. Attaining MIL in formal education has been long and slow process. However, the momentum must be kept up.

MIL must also go beyond the classroom. To increase access to MIL training, UNESCO has launched two online courses:

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In cooperation with Athabasca University, the course provides youth (girls and boys) with basic media and information competencies to become critical citizens. It explores how MIL can enable youth to be actively involved in intercultural and interreligious dialogue, to advocate for gender equality and freedom of expression, and to effectively use virtual spaces.

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In cooperation with the American University of Beirut, the course explores the relationship between MIL, intercultural dialogue and gender representation, how to evaluate the information found in libraries, publications and virtual spaces, how to produce one's own content, and how to understand and evaluate the world of advertising and how it is regulated and controlled. The course is also available in Arabic.

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This resource is part of a comprehensive MIL Toolkit being developed by UNESCO and partners. The full MIL Toolkit will include:

Five Laws of MIL

Five Laws of Media and Information Literacy

We are travelling towards the universality of books, the Internet and all forms of “containers of knowledge”. Media and information literacy for all should be seen as a nexus of human rights. Therefore, UNESCO suggests the following Five Laws of Media and Information Literacy.

They are inspired by the Five Laws of Library Science proposed by S. R. Ranganathan in 1931. The Five Laws of MIL are intended as guides, together with other UNESCO resources, for all stakeholders involved in the application of MIL in all forms of development.

For more context to the Five Laws of MIL, please see related chapter in the MIL Yearbook 2016 published by UNESCO, Media and Information Literacy: Reinforcing Human Rights, Countering Radicalization and Extremism.

Law One

Information, communication, libraries, media, technology, the Internet as well as other forms of information providers are for use in critical civic engagement and sustainable development. They are equal in stature and none is more relevant than the other or should be ever treated as such.

Law Two

Every citizen is a creator of information/knowledge and has a message. They must be empowered to access new information/knowledge and to express themselves. MIL is for all – women and men equally – and a nexus of human rights.

Law Three

Information, knowledge, and messages are not always value neutral, or always independent of biases. Any conceptualization, use and application of MIL should make this truth transparent and understandable to all citizens.

Law Four

Every citizen wants to know and understand new information, knowledge and messages as well as to communicate, even if she/he is not aware, admits or expresses that he/she does. Her/his rights must however never be compromised.

Law Five

Media and information literacy is not acquired at once. It is a lived and dynamic experience and process. It is complete when it includes knowledge, skills and attitudes, when it covers access, evaluation/assessment, use, production and communication of information, media and technology content.


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