The Media Literacy Roundtable Meeting was held on January 18 as part of the “Our Media” project, in which IPS Communication Foundation/bianet is a partner.
IPS Communication Foundation/bianet, along with NGO representatives engaged in media monitoring, a representative from RTÜK, teachers, and academicians, discussed the state of media literacy in Turkey, the issues related to the topic, and potential collaborations for its improvement.
The meeting organized at the BIA Workshop was attended by Prof. Dr. Yasemin İnceoğlu, Prof. Dr. Nazan Haydari, RTÜK (Radio and Television Supreme Council) member İlhan Taşcı, Yasemin Korkmaz from the Hrant Dink Foundation, Yıldız Tar from Kaos GL, Dilek İçten from the Media and Migration Association, Serpil Hizmetçi and Günalp Turan from the Teacher Network, Nadire Mater, Chairperson of the IPS Communication Foundation Board, Murat İnceoğlu, Editor-in-Chief of bianet, Vecih Cuzdan, Responsible Managing Editor of bianet, and Sinem Aydınlı, Research Coordinator at BİA Workshop.
During the meeting, discussions were held on questions such as “How can policies be developed that involve NGOs in media literacy education and promotion?”, “How can media literacy/critical approach be developed?”, “What can the media do in this regard?”, “How can digital media literacy and the development of media skills be encouraged?“, and “How to combat disinformation in digital media?”
The “Our Media: Civil Society Movement for Multiplying Media Literacy and Activism, Preventing Polarization, and Promoting Dialogue” project will span three years (2023-2025). The focus of the project’s first year is to enhance the capacity of NGOs, media professionals, young activists, and the public in the Balkans and Turkey regarding trends and challenges related to both media freedom and the development and sustainability of the media. In this context, one of the activities within the project is the Media Literacy Coalition, expected to be created by bianet and actively engaged in various initiatives.
“Memorization-oriented education dominates rather than critical thinking”
The meeting began with the opening speech by Prof. Dr. Yasemin İnceoğlu. Emphasizing the importance of critical thinking and a culture of self-critique, Prof. Dr. İnceoğlu stated, “These concepts are not present in Turkey. Especially when we look at the education programs of the Ministry of National Education (MEB), we see that memorization-oriented education dominates rather than critical thinking.”
“In this period of informational bombardment and the rise of populism, media literacy is crucial,” said Prof. Dr. İnceoğlu, continuing her words: “Media literacy is not only important for keeping the reader, viewer, listener awake and protecting them from falling into the trap of misinformation but also for improving the quality of the media that we constantly criticize.”
The president determines the agenda in RTÜK
Following Prof. Dr. Yasemin İnceoğlu, RTÜK member İlhan Taşcı took the floor. Stating that “RTÜK has become a more debatable institution in society, especially in terms of the fines it has imposed in the last five years,” Taşcı explained the changing system of RTÜK with the following words:
“There are approximately 80 people we define as monitoring experts in RTÜK. Television channels are monitored 24 hours a day. In the old system, if an expert, free of any influence, watched any broadcast and, based on their perspective and the framework in the law, concluded that there was a violation, they would sit down and prepare a report. Unfortunately, according to the law, the authority to determine the agenda of the top board belongs to the president of RTÜK. The president of RTÜK would select certain cases from these files at his discretion and bring them to the agenda of the top board. We see now that even this was a democratic method. With the start of Ebubekir Şahin’s presidency, instructions were given to the experts. ‘You will no longer write the reports,’ it was said, ‘You will report the broadcasts we determine and enter them into the electronic system.’ When you do not give initiative to the expert, you are entering the reports into the electronic system following commands, there is an instruction system. In fact, what RTÜK members understand from media literacy is their own way of reading the media.”
Taşcı pointed out that RTÜK is closed to criticism and self-improvement at this point, stating, “Press organizations or formations in the European Union want to visit RTÜK periodically. They haven’t been able to establish any contact with the RTÜK president or board for six years.”
Problems related to the education system
Serpil Hizmetçi and Günalp Turan from the Teacher Network shared their project “Critical Digital Literacy in Education” undertaken in collaboration with teyit.org, a verification platform that analyzes the accuracy of dubious content published on the Internet, basing it on open sources.
Serpil Hizmetçi noted that there are elective courses on digital literacy in middle schools, but they are inadequate. She stated, “The problem is, just like in the entire education system, teachers being mere transmitters. You cannot teach critical thinking to children by simply saying ‘think critically.'”
Hizmetçi also mentioned, “For teachers who can engage with students, perhaps different areas can be created on how to establish such environments, and how classroom environments can be transformed into critical and questioning environments.”
Günalp Turan from the Teacher Network emphasized, “We cannot expect teachers to convey something to children that they have not experienced, done, or cannot do, or are not aware of. Fundamentally, educators need to be made stronger and more resilient in this regard, and actively supported.”
“Hate speech has become more intense”
Yasemin Korkmaz, the Monitoring Coordinator for the “Hate Speech Detection in Social Media and Artificial Intelligence Development Project” at the Hrant Dink Foundation, emphasized the significant role of misinformation and exaggeration in the production of hate speech, stating:
“In recent times, hate speech used in society has become more intense. There are much more violent and explicit expressions. While we can look at news and observe, we may not know textbooks that well. One of the deficiencies here, when we examine it, is the ability to provide a definition and the ability to detect hate speech and discriminatory discourse by giving critical discourse.”
“Media taking a position against LGBTI+ individuals”
Following Korkmaz, Yıldız Tar, the Chief Editor of Kaos GL, who conducted a media monitoring study on the representation of LGBTI+ individuals in the media, spoke.
Tar stated, “The number of news related to LGBTI+ individuals is increasing in the media. However, unfortunately, the reason for this increase is not sensitivity to the rights of LGBTI+ individuals but rather the media taking a position based on the political power declaring LGBTI+ individuals as enemies.” Emphasizing that with the increase in news, misinformation also increases, Tar said, “From our perspective, every text that says ‘homosexuality is a disease’ not only contains discriminatory discourse but also spreads misinformation.”
Tar highlighted the importance of conveying accurate information to avoid spreading misinformation, saying:
“For example, when someone says ‘homosexuality is a disease,’ even when you present it in quotation marks, you become an instrument of disinformation. You need to check. Why? For 30 years, the World Health Organization has been saying that this is wrong. You need to add this next to the misinformation.”
“Serious peer bullying towards migrant children”
Dilek İçten from the Media and Migration Association, another organization engaged in monitoring, stated that they aim to enhance media literacy in the fields of education and children in 2024. She remarked, “Recently, we have observed serious peer bullying towards refugee and migrant children. This has now become a situation that goes beyond the dimension of hate crime.”
Speaking about the integration issues that the third generation of refugees and migrants growing up in Turkey will face, İçten said, “Therefore, media literacy studies need to be urgently advanced.”
“We need a more inclusive, participatory, collective, creative and healing media”
The closing speech of the meeting was delivered by Prof. Dr. Nazan Haydari. Prof. Dr. Haydari stated, “The process of thinking about how we define media literacy and whether the concept of ‘critical media literacy’ meets our expectations should be part of our consideration.”
Expressing the need for a more inclusive, participatory, collective, creative, and healing media, Prof. Dr. Haydari said, “We need to bring questions like ‘How can we collaborate with civil society?’ and ‘How can we be together there?’ more to the forefront.”
The article was originally published at bianet.org.
Funded by the European Union.
The regional program “Our Media: A civil society action to generate media literacy and activism, counter polarisation and promote dialogue” is implemented with the financial support of the European Union by partner organizations SEENPM, Albanian Media Institute, Mediacentar Sarajevo, Press Council of Kosovo, Montenegrin Media Institute, Macedonian Institute for Media, Novi Sad School of Journalism, Peace Institute and Bianet.
This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of SEENPM and bianet and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.