A consensus on media and information literacy (MIL) as the impetus for addressing numerous contemporary challenges was reached among all key government ministries in Serbia. Their strong commitment to MIL development was demonstrated at UNESCO and European Commission-supported National Consultations on MIL policies and strategies, held in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade on 9 March.
“In the development of new Media Strategy, Ministry of Culture and Information will devote specific attention to further institutional development of media literacy,” said Nino Brajovic, State Secretary for information and media in the Ministry of Culture and Information in Serbia. He added that MIL is “one of the conditions for the enhancement of culture of information and dialogue in a society”.
The event gathered over 80 policymakers, media experts, professors, educators, librarians and other information intermediaries, youth, civil society and international community stakeholders. Amidst the challenges of information access and verification in the region of South East Europe, the government of Serbia is not standing still.
“Young people are faced today with numerous information that is difficult to assess based on quality. It is difficult to assess what is reliable information. As well, what are the dangers of insufficiently reliable information that can be found in a variety of media? This can negatively affect the behavior of youth, including their present and their future,” said Snezana Klasnja, Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports in Serbia. “The consultations highlighted that it is important to develop a system of values, an attitude towards information. This is, on one side, capability to understand information and use it in life and, on the other side, how to share this information with others and impact the value system,” she concluded.
Road map for MIL in Serbia
Consultations were led by Media Education Center (MEC), Ministry of Youth and Sport, Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Ministry of Culture and Information, with support with the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Commission of the Republic of Serbia for UNESCO. The multi-stakeholder event discussed opportunities and gaps of national MIL policies and strategies. Specific recommendations and a roadmap for MIL development came out of this meeting.
“In the context of speeches and discussions that came from ministry representatives, we can expect the positive outcome of these consultations in successful development of policy and strategy of MIL in Serbia,” said Miomir Rajcevic, Director of MEC. Throughout the sessions, many different mechanisms were explored for MIL as a key for development of critical thinking. Participants emphasized the current media and information context, challenged with global realities of fake news emerging mainly through social media by different information providers. The assessment of all information is becoming increasingly complicated for all generations.
“We have to educate people in the path towards critical and analytical assessment of information that is transmitted to us, because many things are often not true, or not acceptable for certain age groups. In that sense, we concluded at the consultations that IT education in schools must have a segment of media literacy,” said Mr Brajovic, from the Ministry of Culture and Information.
The discussion also highlighted the importance of citizen participation in MIL. Specifically, this was explored through the role of the Coalition of Information and Media Users in South East Europe (CIMU SEE), led by South East European Network of Professionalization of Media (SEENPM). CIMU SEE is one component of the European Commission and UNESCO supported project “Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey”.
Sustainable public policies as foundation for MIL
National consultations are one of several important steps in the roadmap for MIL development in Serbia. Policy and strategy recommendations from the national consultations will be assembled jointly with cooperating ministries and reflected in the Position Paper.
“Policies are the foundation for MIL development. They are needed across the society. The public support for MIL needs to be articulated through strategic decisions grounded in specific policy solutions. They are needed at the national level, led by government and with multi-stakeholder participation,” concluded Alton Grizzle, UNESCO’s Programme Specialist, with direct responsibility for MIL.
This is the second time in a single month that government officials in the region brought together a multi-stakeholder group to discuss national MIL policies and strategies and to agree on a road map to achieve this. The national consultations in Serbia followed similar engagements in Albania a few weeks ago. These activities are organized within the framework of the EU-UNESCO funded project, Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey.