Media and Information Literacy is no longer negotiable in our current context: UNESCO supports national consultations in Albania

In order to engage various stakeholders in a dialogue about further policy and strategy development of Media and Information Literacy (MIL), the Albanian Media Institute (AMI), in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Sport, organized national consultations on MIL in Tirana on 21 February. This event brought together an array of different actors from the governmental and non-governmental sector.

The discussion emphasized that a need for MIL is no longer negotiable in our current context. The consultations also identified the main trends and actors that are currently engaged in MIL, including actors that can also become involved in future. The focus was on specific roles and strategic paths they can all uptake in order to have a more systematic, integrated and strategic approach to MIL in formal, informal, and non-formal education. AMI is a member organization of the South East European Network of Professionalization of Media (SEENPM), and national consultations were organized in the framework of the EU-UNESCO funded project ”Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey”.

“The current challenge we are facing is no longer where to find information, but how to manage information and how to navigate in this ocean of information. The phenomenon of fake news that is currently emerging makes this challenge even more important. That is the reason why we are discussing Media and Information Literacy today and how we should deal with it in the future,” said Remzi Lani, Director of Albanian Media Institute.

Commitment by the government to develop MIL

“Although MIL exists in the education regulation in the forms of competencies that students have to gain, more should be done to bring the curricula in line with MIL,” stressed Dritan Sallaku, the representative of the Ministry of Education. Milena Harito, the Minister of Innovation and Public Administration, reiterated the commitment of Albanian government to strengthening information infrastructure in the country, and expressed the support of her ministry and of the government for media and information literacy policies and initiatives.

The importance of curriculum development  

Educational experts highlighted the gap that exists between the curricula and the education law in terms of MIL. “We definitely have to invest in the curricula aspect and in the capacities that we are missing at the moment,” said Bardhyl Musai, education expert. Representatives from universities also stressed that the absence of MIL in education is visible even at university level.

“Sometimes even journalism students are not capable of making the difference between news and advertorial content, or news and public relations material. We can imagine then the situation with other students and the public in general,” said Jonila Godole, professor of journalism at the University of Tirana, reinforcing the importance of curricula development on MIL.

Libraries: integrating MIL concepts in training

As the development of MIL in Albania is still in the initial phases, the concept is mostly known to a limited circle of professionals. “While the National Library has tried to integrate the concept and its elements in its training programmes and spread the knowledge among high school students, more should be done from different actors to promote the concept among citizens,” highlighted Etleva Domi, Deputy Director of the National Library.  Other representatives from the media field also highlighted that initiatives on MIL should involve different actors in a coordinated manner, in order to raise public awareness on MIL and improve capacities of citizens to find, understand, interpret and use media content and information. This is especially important for youth.

“The more capable the youth is in content production, the easier it will become for them to understand the mechanisms of information and media, and to understand what is propaganda and advertisement,” said Blendi Salaj, from Media Aktive, an organization that has engaged in media and youth initiatives.

Development of a position paper on MIL in Albania

The discussion also assessed other mechanisms that can be used so that the public can critically engage with media, such as councils of viewers and listeners, and other similar citizens’ groups that can act as a bridge between public, information and media. The importance of involving public broadcasting service in MIL initiatives was another trend that emerged from the discussion.

The recommendations and discussion points from the national consultations will be reflected in the final Position Paper on MIL in Albania, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Sport, and will be the policy and strategy base for considering initiatives of different actors in this field and potential ways of cooperation between different sectors. These activities are initial steps towards developing national MIL policies in Albania. “MIL is indispensable to build public trust in media and information and to tackle fake news in Albania and globally,” according to Alton Grizzle, UNESCO’s officer responsible for MIL programme.