UNESCO welcomes European commitment to strengthen Media and Information Literacy

The European Commission has a lot to contribute to empowering media audiences in the digital age, said UNESCO’s Director for Freedom of Expression Guy Berger, addressing the EU Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Working Group on 11 December 2018 in Brussels.

Organized by European Commission, DG CONNECT, the meeting follows the recent revision of the European Audiovisual Media Service Directive, which for the first time foresees new legal obligations for European Member States to “promote and take measures for the development of media literacy skills” (Article 33a) combined with an obligation for video-sharing platforms to provide “for effective media literacy measures and tools and raise users’ awareness of these measures and tools”.

In this context, the European Commission is launching a series of activities such as the first European MIL week during 18-22 March 2019, as well as the possibility of an online MIL library.

“I hope European Member States and the European Union will benefit from UNESCO’s long experience in promoting Media and Information Literacy and coordinating global efforts in that area, for instance with the MIL Global Week. We will also be watching very closely how we can share the European experience around the world,” said Berger.

MIL is gaining momentum in a global context dominated by concern about disinformation, in particular in times of elections. The European Union has just adopted an Action Plan on Disinformation including a new code of practice for social media platforms and the scaling up of MIL efforts.

Berger encouraged the EU experts’ meeting to feed their experience into next year’s global MIL week conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 24-27 September. He also urged European stakeholders to time their 2020 initiatives to coincide with the global week that is led by UNESCO.

“Journalism is under threat but it is also is more important than ever. That is why in a MIL perspective we need to empower the public to value journalism, to protect journalism and cherish freedom of expression,” said the UNESCO official.

Earlier in the day, Berger spoke at a conference titled “the art of living with media”, organized by EAVI, the European Association for Viewers Interests - an NGO based in Brussels doing extensive work in MIL.

The EAVI event challenged Internet users to “pay attention to distraction” and the organizers distributed a sticker for the back of cell phones, which serves as a mirror and carries the words “Time to Reflect”.

Speakers at EAVI highlighted mindfulness and critical thinking as key components for MIL. For his part, Berger proposed that media users should also be literate about the political economy of media and Internet platforms, as well as how algorithms and data-driven messages sought to shape people’s personalities, identities, attitudes and behaviours.