Supporting Media and Information Literacy in Qatar

How can we empower youth in Qatar to use, consume and produce information in a safe, critical and ethical way, both online and offline? UNESCO and the Doha Centre for Media Freedom invited 150 experts and stakeholders from Qatar and the Arab region to discuss this question, of particular importance in a country where youth spend more than four hours a day on the Internet.

Organized in cooperation with Qatar National Commission to UNESCO and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education from 26-27 February 2019 in Doha, the consultation provided a platform for government representatives, school principals, teachers, students and academics to discuss a plan of action to foster media and information literacy in the country. 

Through a series of debates, panels and presentations, a number of challenges were highlighted including a general lack of awareness on the importance of media and information literacy (MIL), the absence of coordination between stakeholders and decision-makers and the difficulty of ensuring educational resources are up-to-date with rapid technological progress. 

In the opening remarks, DCMF Acting Director Abdulrahman bin Nasser Al Obaidan said that the consultation seeks to exchange ideas and regional best practices to ensure optimal implementation of MIL in Qatar. 

Speaking on behalf of Dr Hamda Al Sulaiti, Secretary General of Qatar National Commission to UNESCO, Hessa Al Dosari highlighted the need to develop a national road map and strategy for MIL education in Qatar: "MIL teaches youth how to use reliable sources of information, detect 'fake news' and combat hate speech". 

Marion Desmurger, from UNESCO Cluster Office for the Gulf States and Yemen, introduced the concept of MIL to the audience and outlined the consultation's objectives. "Because media plays an important part in our lives and information shapes our perspective of the world, we need to ensure that youth, who were born in the digital era, are equipped with the set of skills and competencies to access, understand, evaluate, create and share information," she said. 

Experts from the region were invited to share their experiences in implementing MIL, including: Dr. Jad Melki, founder of Lebanese American University's Media and Digital Literacy Academy; Mrs. Bayan Tal from Jordan Media Institute and Cedric Neri from UNESCO Amman Office who are implementing a national MIL project in Jordan; Mrs Lamia Rassi who launched "Yom Kom", a youth magazine in Qatar and Lebanon; Kerim Bouzouita who authored a UNESCO toolkit for educators and youth on MIL; Dr. Naifa Saleem from Sultan Qaboos University; and Dr. Fatimah Al Hashem from Kuwait's Gulf University for Science and Technology.

At the end of the consultation, participants formulated a number of recommendations including the integration of MIL in the formal education system, increased awareness raising on MIL through outreach campaigns, development of research on MIL in Qatar and the region and enhanced coordination between stakeholders. The recommendations will be further discussed and refined among stakeholders in the coming months and are expected to be presented to decision-makers by mid-2019.

Media and information literacy is an essential driver of youth civic engagement to contribute to Qatar National Vision 2030 and to empower them to act as global citizens promoting values of intercultural dialogue and peace.