Global Media and Information Literacy week, which takes place in Kaunas. Lithuania, starting today.
Ineta Dabasinskiene, Vice Rector at Vytautas Magnus University made the opening remarks, identifying the vital need for Media and Information Literacy in the 21st Century, and the general need for people to become media and information literate, within all levels of education, and beyond. She also read a message from the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Construction of Knowledge Societies, which contrasted the Soviet era which controlled media and polished the image of government, with democratic processes of citizen engagement. He also identified the current risks for democratic openness and participation, and the need for MIL in fostering critical thinking and participation in democratic society.
Moez Chakchouk, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Communication and Information brought the welcome news that the United Nation has endorsed an annual Global MIL week. He also emphasised how member states can no longer assume that MIL is already covered, and how important it was to civil society to address the development of MIL and take account of this in policy and strategy. He identified MIL as a flagship area of UNESCO’s work.
Patrick Penninckx talked about how the digital revolution was more insidious than had been the industrial revolution, the digital “Creeps into our lives”. He felt that the digital was bringing about a paradigm shift, influencing state and society, that we were not prepared for. For example, education was preparing students for the 20th rather than the 21st. He quoted Kofi Annan, saying that literacy was “ a bridge from misery to hope” and vital for culture and development: and now the meaning of literacy had expanded into a multilayered concept. He noted that “the virtual world is also the real world”, for example it may be the first place in which people encounter their life partners. He also noted the importance of taking account of informal as well as formal education, and also the needs for the rights of the child. Penninckx emphasised that the expertise of those at the conference was needed to help transform our environments, each of us needed to think what our own role was in the digital revolution.
Anni Hellman, EC DG CONNECT, talked particularly about the problem of disinformation, the fact that the news media has fragmented, that people don’t seem to have the time to assess the trustworthiness of information. She also mentioned the European Union’s high level expert group and its work, she “hoped that our democracy will not be at stake” because of the problem of people posting untrue information and people’s inability to judge good quality news. This problem has, on the positive side, led to more attention from the European Commission for Media and Information Literacy and more funding possibilities.