» Media and information literacy is a tool that enables life
28.06.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

Media and information literacy is a tool that enables life


The inspiring first day of the Second European Media and Information Literacy Forum highlighted many initiatives that are being undertaken in Europe, with the common messages corresponding on national, regional and international level.

Media and Information Literacy (MIL) also received strong recognition by the government of Latvia, with Ms Inara Murniece, Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Latvia present on the opening session of the Forum. Ms Dace Melbārde, the Minister for Culture of the Republic of Latvia, emphasized the importance of MIL at the official reception organized by the Latvian government, stating: “MIL is a GPS of the media and information landscape”.

Underlining the point, UNESCO’s Marius Lukosiunas stated: “We know that MIL is about helping people to navigate their way through information proliferation, giving them the critical intellectual skills to evaluate and discern what comes across their radar”. He spoke on behalf of Mr Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development of UNESCO, in the opening session.

MIL is a discipline to enable life,” said Ms Sheila Webber, representative of the GAPMIL European Sub-Chapter and Director of the Centre for Information Literacy Research at the University of Sheffield, during the first Plenary session on promoting MIL in a shifting communication/media landscape.

Propaganda and its relation to MIL

“Propaganda is getting really personal as it comes through social media. As the access to the media information is expanding, so are high levels of apathy and disengagement. This is accompanied by increased political polarization” said Dr Renee Hobbs, Professor of Communication Studies at University of Rhode Island. But MIL can generate “high levels of engagement and critical thinking” she added. In that sense Dr. Hobbs underlined that MIL can be used to raise awareness and inspire people to action.

Give technology, but also provide knowledge

During the first Plenary session, Toms Meisitis, member of the Board of Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association (LIKTA) urged going further than providing people with digital tools, by supporting education and knowledge how to use it properly and with good intentions. Latvian libraries play a significant role in supporting MIL, he stated, adding that they could serve as an entry point for education and guidance. 

Librarians and media as agents of change

“Latvia has one of the highest number of public libraries compared to other European countries and one of the highest number of free internet access points. Librarians, thus, can be perceived as digital literacy social agents or mediators for Latvian society and notably for children,” said Ms Guna Spurava, of the University of Latvia and the head of the UNESCO Chair on Media and Information Literacy.

The European publishing industry is also leading with projects on MIL, trying to build relationships with readers from an early age and finding new formats and platforms for delivering information. “Newspapers and news media have a fundamental role to play in promoting media literacy and socially-engaged citizenship. MIL skills are more urgently needed than ever for citizens to process in a critical way all the news and information on print and digital platforms,” said Ms Elodie Depré, Representative of ENPA (European Newspaper Publishers’ Association).

Does the media reflect the needs of young people? 

The function of media in bringing reliable and pluralistic content, as well also having a central role in promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue, was promoted at the Round table on the topic of MIL and interreligious understanding in support of solidarity and living together and peace. “Some research shows that over 70% of young people say, themselves, that their perception of other religions is affected by what they read and see in the media. A majority of these young people believe that intercultural and interreligious dialogue is important for their countries,” said Mr Alton Grizzle, Programme Specialist at UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector. He concluded that MIL can help overcome disinformation, stereotypes and intolerance conveyed through some media and in online spaces.

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 runs from 27 to 29 June 2016, in Riga, Latvia.

Latvia hosted UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day annual conference in May 2015.

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