Article

UNESCO Strengthens Capacities in Media and Information Literacy in Kenya

09/09/2020
16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

UNESCO trained 60 media professionals, practitioners, and regulators on media and information literacy competencies in Kenya in an online workshop from 25 to 27 August 2020, which was facilitated by the Centre for Media and Information Literacy in Kenya (CMIL-Kenya) in partnership with Communications Authority of Kenya.

The workshop aimed to empower participants with knowledge and competencies to create awareness on the need for development of national policies and strategies on Media and Information Literacy relevant for the 21st century based on newly published UNESCO Media and Information Literacy in Journalism: Handbook for Journalists and Journalism Educators in Kenya. It also encouraged uptake of Media and Information literacy initiatives, actions, and policies within their organizations.

In his keynote address during the virtual workshop, Mr. David Omwoyo, Chief Executive Officer of the Media Council of Kenya stated that media and information literacy (MIL) restores public interest back to the practice of journalism:

“Media and Information Literacy enables the consumer to interrogate news and other information content. In a situation where there’s a free market of information, most of it sub-standard, MIL for journalists will help them set higher standards of the news they produce, thereby responding to public interest and ultimately restoring public trust in media.”

Mr. Victor Bwire, Deputy CEO and Head of Strategy and Programmes at Media Council of Kenya noted that Media and Information Literacy (MIL) competences are an important skill set especially for practicing journalists in the wake of rampant misinformation and disinformation, adding that the Council is active in mainstreaming of MIL since 2013 through UNESCO support in the country: 

“Media regulations have changed over the years. In order not to stifle innovation opportunities brought about by technological advancement, regulation around the globe is shifting from legislation to self-regulation. Media and information literacy for journalists will go a long way towards the achievement of this regulation model.”

Mr. Bwire further noted that Kenya is now embracing Media and Information Literacy initiatives, notably in media and education, and the development of a national MIL policy and strategy supported by UNESCO was at advanced stage.

Mr. Peter Ikumilu, Director of Compliance at the Communications Authority of Kenya underscored the need for sustained stakeholder forums, capacity-building sessions, and collaborations to ingrain Media and Information Literacy in the Kenyan society. He noted that the Authority has rolled out a few Media and Information Literacy related initiatives with partners such as on child online safety and cyber-security:

“The workshop was quite solid. The focus was on how MIL can make journalism more efficient and vice versa, and how media can empower and influence citizen journalism and help audiences move from passive media consumption to analysing, interrogating, and reflecting on content.”

Ms Judie Kaberia a journalist and Chair of the Africa Check Foundation board in Kenya underscored the cardinal principles of journalism – verification, fact-checking and ownership of content – as relevant to the MIL training, which she said would help close the ranks between journalists and their audiences and help restore trust in legacy and new media.

Mr. Anthony Mugo, Chairman of the Centre for Media and Information Literacy in Kenya emphasized that the workshop was relevant and beneficial in a situation where the Kenyan government is implementing a variety of cross-cutting initiatives that have a direct bearing to the lives of all citizens in the information age. He further indicated that the workshop has set state for formation of a Media and Information Literacy Consortium in Kenya to undertake further strategic engagements, awareness creation, and advocacy for mainstreaming of MIL in Kenya.

Participants to the workshop were drawn from media organizations, communication and film regulatory bodies, government ministries, community media associations, universities, and the private sector working in media environment, among others.

Enhancing Media and Information Literacy competencies among media professionals, practitioners, and regulators is a key action of UNESCO’s strategy to promote knowledge societies and foster the development of free, independent and pluralistic media and universal access to information and knowledge for good governance.

Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director of UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa

This activity was implemented within UNESCO’s thematic action of ensuring that pluralistic media institutions are facilitated, while citizens are empowered, through enhanced Media and Information Literacy (MIL) competencies for civic participation and engagement in Kenya.