UNESCO organized a 2-day workshop in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from 17 to 18 June 2019 on the promotion of media and information literacy in the prevention of online violent extremism.
Following the joint UN scoping mission to assist Kyrgyzstan in developing and implementing a policy framework to prevent and counter violent extremism, UNESCO’s event contributed to addressing the challenges of sectarianism and extremism in cyberspace. The workshop kick started the process of carrying out a Media and Information Literacy Assessment to better understand the use, causes of and potential of the internet in spreading online violent extremism and on ways ahead for countering the phenomena. Twenty-seven representatives from universities, Ministry of Education and Science officials, civil society organizations and media representatives, attended the workshop.
During the event, participants acquainted themselves with the phenomena of violent extremism in Kyrgyzstan and the region and the use of new media in recruiting young people. According to the UN scoping mission report, sixty percent of foreign terrorist fighters from Kyrgyzstan since 2014 were recruited via the Internet and social media platforms. Media and Information Literacy can tailor interpretive and analytical skills to the types of formats of information available on the Internet and social media and contribute towards the prevention of violent extremism. In a study in 2017 by the Media Policy Institute titled Study of media literacy level in Kyrgyzstan found that large flow of online information affect the ability of young people to critically assess information. Focus groups demonstrated that young people find it difficult to differentiate between official information from a reliable source and random speculations.
Participants were also introduced to UNESCO’s concept of media and information literacy and the relevance of the concept in preventing violent extremism. One participant remarked that she learnt a lot about media and information literacy and that media and information literacy is much more than just responsible consumption of information/media but also include competencies related to creating and sharing knowledge on various media platform.
Participants worked on the assessment plan identifying the importance of assessing media and information literacy skills among teachers, but also civil servants, young people from labour migrants, opinion leaders and NGOs. UNESCO’s Global Media and Information Literacy Assessment Framework was presented, based on which the participants assisted in adapting the assessment tools, the questionnaire on national contextual data, questionnaire for teachers’ training institutions and questionnaire for teachers, to the context of Kyrgyzstan.
This activity by UNESCO, organized in partnership with the Media Policy Institute, is directly linked to the needs as requested by the Government of Kyrgyzstan, in particular by the Ministry of Education and Science on mainstreaming Media and Information Literacy in the education sector, thus contributing to ongoing Prevention of Violent Extremism measures. The Information for All Programme (IFAP) and the UNESCO Cluster Office in Almaty are providing the necessary support in the prevention of online violent extremism in accordance with the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. The workshop was UNESCO’s first effort to assess media and information literacy readiness at the national level using the Assessment Framework, which will be followed up the local partner’s assessment activities in the coming months. The Media Policy Institute will conduct the survey to gauge Kygyzstan’s Media and Information Literacy readiness and will publish the results with recommendations in September 2019. With the results and the recommendations, various stakeholders in Kyrgyzstan will continue the effort to employ information literacy in the prevention of violent extremism online.
The Information for All Programme (IFAP) was established in 2001 to provide a platform for international cooperation in the area of access to information and knowledge for the participation of all in the knowledge societies. IFAP is a unique UNESCO intergovernmental programme that focuses on ensuring that all people have access to information they can use to improve their lives. The IFAP Bureau consists of eight Member States nominated by the governing Council. It meets twice a year to appraise, select and approve projects as well as to hold thematic debates on issues of importance for the Programme.