Experts are gathering in Doha to discuss the challenges facing MIL
education in the Arab world and beyond
The three-day experts’ meeting on MIL has brought together international figures to share expertise related to media education around the world.
Doha Centre for Media Freedom and Qatar have the potential to play leading roles in the development of Media and Information Literacy (MIL) throughout the Arab world according to experts who praised the efforts of the centre in implementing media education initiatives in Qatar and the region.
The centre’s work was praised by officials at the experts’ meeting on MIL education, hosted by DCMF, which opened yesterday morning.
Participants have gathered in Qatar to discuss the major challenges facing the development of MIL throughout the Arab region and the rest of the world, and to propose recommendations for fostering greater understanding of a relatively young, but increasingly significant subject.
DCMF director Jan Keulen opened the meeting, highlighting the importance of MIL and thanking the participants for travelling from various countries to share their expertise on the subject.
“At DCMF, we believe that MIL is a prerequisite for media freedom and ultimately for having an informed public,” he said.
“Media freedom doesn’t only require political will, a legal framework, developed journalism and skilled journalists, it can only grow and blossom in a culture of critical thinking.”
“Citizens need skills to handle the enormous influx of information we receive on a daily basis,” Keulen noted, adding “we believe this is an enterprise for the long term – not a short fix.”
“I communicate therefore I am”
One of the general themes which emerged from the first day of the meeting was the lack of understanding about exactly what MIL education entails. Questions over what MIL is, how it can be taught, its importance and its benefits continue to abound throughout stakeholders in the region, and perhaps the most daunting challenge facing MIL education practitioners is overcoming this basic lack of comprehension.
Project manager for MIL programmes at the United National Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC), Jordi Torrent spoke about the growing significance of communication, arguing that it has become the way through which people define themselves.
“We have moved from ‘I think therefore I am,’ to ‘I communicate therefore I am,’” he noted, adding “the problem is that we are taking reflection out of this relationship. MIL brings reflection back into this process.”
He explained that UNAOC sees MIL as a way to improve cross-cultural understanding and dialogue: “Our work is basically on intercultural dialogue, building and facilitating better understanding and dialogue and counter-balancing the forces that provoke polarisation and confrontation.”
Torrent also highlighted the damage that can be caused by inaccurate and irresponsible journalism: “One tweet can create a whole movement, and misinformation can lead to great conflict.”
This sentiment was echoed by Alton Grizzle, programme specialist from UNESCO, who argued that providing MIL education has the power to transform misconceptions and form attitudes which can change peoples’ lives.
“It is real. It can save and change lives, and as we move forward we need to keep this in mind,” he stated.
While there are issues involved in defining the legal parameters for MIL, Grizzle suggested that a framework should be developed from existing legislation related to media, expression, communication and ICT.
Case studies and recommendations
The day also featured presentation by experts who discussed their experiences of MIL in various countries around the world.
Dr Rawia Al-Humaidan from Kuwait University outlined the projects that her university has been involved with, aimed at improving understanding across cultures and combating stereotypes.
Head of Cairo University’s Communication College, Dr Samy Tayie discussed specific issues facing MIL in Egypt, suggesting that a holistic approach to MIL education and an overhaul of education systems in the region would lead to a major improvement in the situation.
Dr Abdel Hamid Nfissi from Sis Mohamed Ben Abdullah University in Morocco also presented a case study on the development of MIL in Morocco.
The following two days of the meeting will involve a number of discussions of similar case studies, with the aim of outlining recommendations for contributing towards the development of MIL in the Arab and wider regions in the future.
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