Building new knowledge base on media and information literacy

The first training of trainers in the field of media and information literacy was held last week in Sarajevo, launching thus the series of educational events to take place across the region as part of the “Media for Citizens – Citizens for the media”, an EU funded project.

Twenty participants coming from different backgrounds gathered in Sarajevo to develop new training modules on media and information literacy that will be later taught through workshops and courses taking place in Albania, B&H, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

 “The aim of the training is to establish a team of trainers and educators who will work in the next two years with different groups in BiH to develop knowledge in the field of media and information literacy. We want to improve the existing and build a new knowledge base that will help citizens in the region  better understand the media environment and use more securely and responsibly all the opportunities provided by the media today, the Internet, and especially social networks”, Maida Muminovic, the executive director of Mediacentar Sarajevo and regional coordinator of the project said.

“Training tackled latest definitions, trends and knowledge transfer methods in the broad field of media and information literacy. We have also worked with participants, our future educators, on deepening the knowledge on specific areas such as visual literacy, digital security, media pluralism, journalism profession and data verification” she added.

Training was led by a Czech media literacy and hate speech expert Jaroslav Valuch and a journalist and editor of the magazine for children ’Časoris’ from Slovenia, Sonja Merljak Zdovc.

“I am pleasantly surprised by the level of expertise in this room. As trainers we can share our experiences and try to help but also learn from other participants. This is an excellent mix of people from different fields, journalists, regulatory bodies, academia. I learned about the local context, the perception that the media and media literacy have here. It is changing from country to country”, one of the trainers, Jaroslav Valuch said.

He presented to the participants a brief history of media literacy, ways to verify information, open data exploration methods used by organizations such as Bellingcat and also spoke about emotional literacy that became an integral part of MIL.

“I think these workshops are good because they improve our knowledge, our understanding of the skills how to work with different non-governmental organizations, citizens, through non-formal education, how to develop media literacy, how to recognize quality in relation to poor quality information so that the level of media and information literacy can be raised to a higher level”, said one of the participants, Zarfa Hrnjić Kuduzović, associate professor at the University of Tuzla, University of Philosophy.

She said that she had the opportunity to learn about new methods and platforms used to verify information and to find out about methods from Slovenia and the Czech Republic that could be applied in BiH.

“I am in this field since 2012. It was natural to apply for this seminar. I hope to improve my knowledge, expand my contacts and, in a way, to establish a better network, which I think is important for the development of the field of media literacy. Experts and and those interested in this field still are not sufficiently connected and I think that this is necessary”, Vuk Vučetić, assistant at the Department of Journalism at the Faculty of Philosophy in Pale, said.

One of the topics of media literacy is also visual literacy, about which one of the participants, Imrana Kapetanović, a photographer from Sarajevo, talked the most.

“I said this topic is interesting, it’s not that people know what media and information literacy is. I’m doing a lot of training on similar topics, so I think that I can fit in well and work with other people”, Kapetanović said.

She talked about the power of the visual in relation to the written and spoken word, about the abuse of photography, especially on social networks, and she also looked at the way in which younger generations find information, primarily through Wikipedia.

“It was very frustrating that younger generations do not think about another way of learning and finding information and absolutely rely on Wikipedia as the primary source of information … We literally have to educate new generations”, Kapetanović said.

Teaching the younger generation, especially children, was one of the main focuses of the training. The former editor of the online version of the Slovenian daily newspaper ‘Delo’ and one of the trainers, Merljak Zdovc, showed to the participants practical examples of how to bring young people closer to the topic of media and information literacy and how to teach them to protect themselves on the Internet, which today on social networks has become especially important. She also talked about the online magazine for children, ‘Časoris’, which she founded in order that children get used to reading news from the early age.

“Children have to receive news from the early age. They have to know that there is news and that it differs from what they get from Youtube because they are constantly on Youtube. I always say that you can not give the readers what they want to hear, but what they need”, Zdovc said.

Children’s newspapers exist in many countries: in the United Kingdom ‘First News’, in the U.S. ‘News-o-matic’, in Canada ‘Teaching Kids’, and countries like the Netherlands and Germany have their own versions. She said that such examples would be good for the Balkan region too and that in the third grade of elementary school children should learn about the media and the newspapers, which is currently the practice in Slovenia.

The regional program “Media for Citizens – Citizens for the 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 Sarajevo, Albanian Media Institute, Macedonian Institute for Media, Montenegrin Media Institute, Novi Sad School of Journalism, Peace Institute, SEENPM .