A total of 40 youth leaders from national and regional youth associations in The Gambia on Wednesday, 1st December, completed a three-day training on Media and Information Literacy, as part of broader efforts to address hate speech and fake news in the country
It was organized by UNESCO and delivered by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).
The training focused on themes such as: understanding media and information literacy and its relevance to democracy and good governance; functions of media and other information providers; understanding the news, media and information ethics, and the relationship between journalism and society.
Verification and fact checking; how to analyse the medium and the message; examining sponsored and unsponsored media messages and their goals; and the nature and characteristics of traditional and new media were also key components of the capacity building workshop.
Tobi Oluwatola, acting executive director of Premium Times Centre, pointed out that the training was designed to address the needs to enable media users to access and use information prudently.
At the end of the three days, one of the youth leaders, Joe Bongay, member of Young Volunteers for the Environment, noted that issues of media and information literacy were not given focus by many youth organisations for lack of knowledge about its importance.
I now realised media and information literacy is very important and this training could not have come at a better time than now when The Gambia is going to polls for presidential election in few days. We all know that generally the entire Gambia is on Facebook and everyone is a journalist spreading every kind of information. But this training has helped us to know how to evaluate and scrutinise information that we consume and to be able denounce fake news. The spread of fake news brings about violence; we have seen examples of that in other countries.
For Omar Bah, memeber of the National Youth Council, one thing that stood out from the training is the importance of fact checking.
As the presidential election is approaching, people are peddling every kind of information to misinform the public. And as youth activist, if you are naïve, you could further spread such information unknowingly. So fact checking and verification is so key and important to young people and advocates.
Mansey Jabang of the Youth Empowerment Africa said she now better understands the role of the media and journalists in society.
The training made her to change a vow she made to herself.
“I made a promise to myself that I would never talk to any journalist or give them any information but I have changed that position now because I understand the role of the media better and how journalists collect news. I know journalists rely on information that we give them, so if we all don’t want to talk to them then there will be no news. So the question we should all ask ourselves now is ‘what can we do to provide journalists with the information they need,” she said.
Like Mansey, Omar Saibou Camara of Fact Check Centre also learned about the media and how it affects the public space.
“I have generally learned about the media and society and how the society affects the media, equally how the media affects the society. I have equally learned about how the media can be used as a tool to enhance democracy, access to information,” he said.
Mbye Mballow of Peace Ambassadors The Gambia promised to work with his team to make sure issues of MIL is embedded in the organisation’s communication strategy and outreach programmes.
The lead trainer, Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer at Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) said the media and information ecosystem keeps evolving and as such media users also need to evolve to confront the many new challenges.
Ms Anipah affirmed that the three-day training was engaging and the participants have been receptive.
I am hopeful that the learning will not end with the conclusion of the training and that the participants will seek more information on MIL,” she said. “I expect that with the elections on the horizon, they will be able to access, evaluate, and ethically engage with media content so that they will not find themselves contributing to the menace of ‘fake news’.
Ndumbeh Saho, director of Coordination Unit under the Department of Strategic Policy and Delivery at the Office of the President, commended the young people for their enthusiasm about media and information literacy as an instrument for peace.
“I am really proud that we have very dynamic young people who are thinking about peace and have seen that authentic and accurate information is a vehicle for peace building,” she said.
The three-day training was organised under UNESCO’s component of the Peace Building Fund project entitled ‘Young Women and Men as Stakeholders in Ensuring Peaceful Democratic Processes and Advocates for the Prevention of Violence and Hate Speech’.
The two-year project is being implemented by a consortium of UNESCO, UNDP and UNFPA in partnership with local implementing partners. It seeks to address the institutional barriers for young people, to strengthen youth capacity for engagement and participation in governance and leadership, and to address hate speech and counter fake news and misinformation of young people through media and local community structures.
The training on media and information literacy was expected to adequately equip the youth with acceptable degree of skills to evaluate, understand and criticize media contents to know what is fake from real, and be able to differentiate between paid media propaganda and news content.