Experiencing a world of media and information literacy reggae-style in Jamaica

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Taking MIL seriously: participants at the conference call for urgent action* © UNESCO/UWI
27 October 2017

If conference dialogue was a song, then the most popular reggae tune played at the 6th Global MIL Week feature conference in Jamaica this week would have been “Enabling media and information literate minds in critical times”.  

From all over the world, “singers” came to the small island state on 25 October 2017 - with close to 200 representatives from over 40 countries. They gathered in music for a chorus that has been sung for several decades, but now with a faster tempo given the growing urgency of action.

The speakers on the first day were in harmony in calling on decision-makers to listen and act to make media and information literacy (MIL) training accessible to all.

Mr Cordel Green, Executive Director of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica and Chair of the Information Advisory Committee of the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO, noted that this global event on MIL could not have been more momentous, in the light of the shift in the global information and communication landscape.

The Director, in his introductory remarks, highlighted the ongoing MIL programme of the Broadcasting Commission, started in cooperation with UNESCO back in 2006.

“In today’s rapidly changing world, we should use every possible occasion to discuss, debate and exchange on how we can find and implement new ways of learning and sharing , and how to examine and respond to the challenges that come with them. MIL widens opportunities for people to make a positive impact on their societies and to pursue their dreams,” said Ms Isabel Viera Bermudez, Adviser for Communication and Information, speaking on behalf of Ms Katherine Grisby, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean.

The University of the West Indies - the host of this year’s feature conference - was represented by Ambassador Dr. Richard L. Bernal, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Global Affairs. The Ambassador welcomed all and emphasized our common purpose in discussions on MIL worldwide.

“The role of libraries in realising media and information literate societies has never been more crucial,” stated Ms Glòria Pérez-Salmeròn, President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). A society that undervalues its libraries will compromise its most important resource, its people and their minds. Libraries have been, and must be supported to do more to lead the orchestra of media and information literate minds, reggae style, she noted. IFLA is synonymous with MIL and stands in harmony with Global MIL Week, she added.

The Hon. Olivia Grange, Member of Parliament and Minister of Education, Youth, and Information welcomed all “to the country that rocks to the beat of change”. The Minister stated that an education system that ignores learning that takes place outside of the formal classroom setting, including through popular culture, risks sacrificing its impact. She noted that Jamaica has been a long supporter of MIL. “As we (Jamaica) vie for a seat on the UNESCO Executive Board, I promise that MIL will be a priority if the country is successful in its bid,” she continued.

In a keynote address that received rock star welcome, Mr Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO, also sang of MIL to a reggae tune. The Assistant Director-General (ADG) said that critical thinking is intrinsic to ongoing human development. “We all went through the development stage of asking Why, Why, Why? It is this state of mind that must be nurtured throughout our lives, especially as media and technology have phenomenally expanded our communicative capacities” he insisted.

The ADG stayed on the “one-drop” reggae beat when he said, “MIL is the most important tool for addressing misinformation and disinformation. We must then build appropriate minds and attitude. We must ensure critical minds for critical times, through MIL, to redefine people’s identity and information culture,” he ended.

Alton Grizzle, Programme Specialist with direct responsibility for UNESCO’s global strategy on MIL kept all of the nearly 200 representatives chanting the reggae beat to MIL, as he, together with Professor Esther Hamburger, Chair of the MILID Network and Carolyn Wilson, Chair of the GAPMIL International Steering Committee, announced four MIL awards from GAPMIL, recognising outstanding contributions to promoting MIL worldwide.

The first day continued with vibrant debate and knowledge sharing through several plenary and parallel sessions. Please follow our website for more news about the GAPMIL Global MIL Awardees, the day’s proceedings and other news about Global MIL Week. The beat goes on!

Contact: Alton Grizzle, a.grizzle@unesco.org and Xu Jing, ji.xu@unesco.org

*R-L: Mr Cordel Green, Executive Director of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica; Dr Paulette Stewart, Head of the Department of Library and Information Services; Mr Hopeton Dunn (Jamaica), Director, Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC); The Hon Olivia Grange MP, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports and Chairperson of the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO; Ms Paulette Kerr, Campus Librarian The University of the West Indies, Mona; Ms Glòria Pérez-Salmerón, President, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Ambassador Dr. Richard L. Bernal, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Global Affairs; Ms Isabel Viera Bermudez, Adviser for Communication and Information in the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean; and Alton Grizzle Programme Specialist, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris - Manager for UNESCO’s global actions on Media and Information Literacy