60 New Trainers to Advance Media Literacy in the Western Balkans

MIL Training of Trainers in Skopje, Macedonia

Journalists, university lecturers, school teachers, media experts, and civil society activists went back to school for a while to learn about media and information literacy (MIL) within a training of trainers (ToT) program conducted in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia in September and October 2018.

The training is part of the EU-funded project ’Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media’ (2018-2021), which aims to build the capacities of CSOs with a wide range of activities to advance media and information literacy in the Western Balkans. A group of seven SEENPM members, led by Mediacentar Sarajevo, implement the project.

The trainings generated great interest among target groups, with more participants enrolled in the course than initially planned.

“Media literate citizens are able to create media content and respond to information in a responsible manner. The various perspectives they bring can contribute to tackling wrong narratives and the fake news we see in the media,” said Naomi Thompson, the ToT trainer of EAVI. She believes that media education should be life-long learning, starting from the earliest age in kindergartens.

[VIDEO] Naomi Thopmson, media literacy trainer (UK) 

In each of the ToT implementing countries, five teams of two new trainers will be formed, each team selecting a specific topic to develop a program and hold a workshop for CSOs eager to work on advancing MIL. The workshops, which will be organized as of December this year, will be adapted to contextual needs and interests of individual CSOs.

“The training balanced theory and practice in an excellent way… Developing our own MIL workshop plans was a great way to exchange experiences as all the participants came from different fields of work,” commented Anida Sokol, participant of the ToT held in Sarajevo, BiH.

ToT in Skopje, Macedonia

Project organisers will publish an online manual in local languages for future MIL trainers in time to help them prepare MIL workshops and further training activities.

[VIDEO] Ana Poprizova, psychologist, participant in the ToT in Skopje, Macedonia

Senior trainers who conducted the ToT activities will mentor the training preparation, providing feedback on program development and methodology:

  • Jaroslav Valuch (Czech Republic) who leads a nation-wide campaign against hate motivated violence and crimes within the Government of the Czech Republic and has extensive experience in MIL;
  • Naomi Thompson (UK) of the European Association of Viewers Interests (EAVI), who worked on a landmark media literacy study and its follow-ups as a researcher and has background in law and data analysis;
  • Sonja Merljak Zdovc (Slovenia), journalist and author, who is also researching the state of journalism, literary journalism and media literacy as a scholar;
  • Stefan Janjic (Serbia), certified MIL trainer, editor-in-chief of a fake news debunking website in Serbia, who has an MA in communications and is a PhD candidate in interdisciplinary studies of social sciences and humanities.

[VIDEO] Stefan Janjic, media literacy trainer 

Having adopted an operational definition of MIL, the ToT students embarked on engaging and provoking sessions on:

  • Introducing MIL: development of MIL, definitions and approaches to MIL, overview of current trends and interpretations of those trends;
  • Approaches in teaching MIL: methods for various target groups (e.g. MIL in schools, MIL for elderly; MIL in digital environment);
  • Importance of MIL for the overall development of media freedom and integrity (related to the digital technologies and social media as source of information, propaganda and disinformation and civic engagement against these problems).
ToT in Skopje, Macedonia

Each of the five teams then chose one among the following module topics and developed a workshop agenda and methodology in preparation for sessions with CSOs in their respective countries:

  • Visual literacy – images and how they construct our perception of the realities that surround us; analysis of images used by media and consumers in daily media consumption, and how these should be critically understood; aspects of production of visual storytelling (e.g. basics of mobile video production, photo production and editing, usage of sound in visual storytelling).
  • Media and Diversity – critical understanding of how various media forms (articles, titles, video features etc.) and genres are shaping our understanding of the other: minorities, vulnerable groups, etc., with an analysis of hate speech and war propaganda included.
  • Information verification – opportunities and risks related to the media, focusing on critical understanding of sources in the media (who is providing information, under what circumstances and to whom); difference between journalism and ‘’citizen’ journalism’’; usage of social networks as sources of information; tackling the problem of ‘’fake news’’ by providing insight into the roots and consequences of it.
  • Online safety relates to the questions: How do we use new technologies? What is the meaning of privacy on social networks, and how can we behave more responsibly toward ours and the privacy of other people? The topic is especially important for the elderly and the youth as target groups.
  • How the media function – a module that should present how the media (including legacy media) operate on a daily basis. What is the role of an editor, and what is that of a journalist? How the media produces information? What are the main challenges for media in the region, in terms of quality content production, capacities, political and economic pressures, etc?

[VIDEO] Participants and trainers of the ToT in Tirana, Albania: 1) Fatjona Mejdini, trainer and editor at the Albanian Center for Quality Journalism, 2) Besnik Baka, civil society activist, 3) Stefan Janjic, trainer, 4) Valbona Sulçe, media and communication expert.

“Developing plans for future workshops was a particularly important part of the ToT as this method prompted us to grasp where we should improve our own understanding of MIL,” noted Hilma Unkic, a participant in the Sarajevo ToT.

Read more about the project ’Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media’

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You can reach us at [email protected] for any information about the project.

The regional program “Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media: Strengthening the Capacity of NGOs for the Development of Media and Information Literacy in the Western Balkans” is implemented with the support of the European Union by partner organizations Mediacentar SarajevoAlbanian Media Institute,Macedonian Institute for MediaMontenegrin Media InstituteNovi Sad School of JournalismPeace InstituteSEENPM.