Building peace in the minds of men and women

Youth from around Jordan work to improve their MIL skills

07 November 2018

This past week, the world celebrated Global Media Literacy Information (MIL) Week. MIL includes a set of competencies to search, critically evaluate, use and contribute information and media content wisely; understanding how to combat online hate speech and cyberbullying; as well as understanding ethical issues surrounding the access and use of information. Media and Information Literacy (MIL) skills are critical in the quest to ensuring an informed public, capable of digesting media.

The UNESCO Amman office, in collaboration with the Media Diversity Institute, has been offering MIL sessions to youth audiences from all across Jordan. This important initiative falls within UNESCO’s mandate of encouraging diversity and freedom of expression and represents a joint initiative between two important projects. The “Support to Media in Jordan” (STMJ) project has been implemented by UNESCO since 2014, with significant partnership and financial support from the European Union. Recently, with collaboration and funding from the Government of Canada, the UNESCO Amman office and the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNCCT), have begun implementing the “Prevention of Violent Extremism through Youth Empowerment in Jordan, Morocco, Libya, and Tunisia” project.

The main objective of the training was to equip youth with a strong grasp of MIL, enabling them to critically use media tools and to pass on their knowledge and skills to peers. MIL Training sessions have been  hosted in Maan, Jerash, Amman and Mafraq over the past few weeks. The training has tackled a host of MIL related issues, such as navigating fake news and propaganda, ethics of using social media, the effect of media on emotions, the benefits and risks of the internet cyberbullying and hate speech. Local civil society organizations (CSO’s) have developed and implemented the sessions, with support from the UNESCO Amman office and Media Diversity Institute. Thus far, 82 youth from around Jordan have participated in the six sessions.  

In partnership with Media Diversity Institute (MDI), an extended training of trainers (ToT) workshop in September 2018 brought together representatives from civil society organizations from Irbid, Ma’an, Amman and Mafraq. The goal of the workshop was to impart a greater understanding of the techniques of informal and non-formal teaching of MIL, supporting participants to develop their own training materials. UNESCO’s MIL efforts are rooted in strengthening an enabling regulatory and institutional environment, and working towards an independent, quality-based media sector serving the entire population.

Renad Taha and Fatima Qablan, participants of the MDI ToT workshop and volunteers at local youth organization ILearn, delivered sessions focused on fake news, cyberbullying and the ethics of using social media. “We feel very thrilled to be passing on our MIL knowledge to youth in Jerash. We were trained on MIL this fall and this experience has been so positive; we feel we are having an impact”, shared Fatima.

Renad feels grateful for her newly augmented media awareness. “There are many issues that have been created as a result of the misuse of media and social media. In Jordan, there have been cases of cyberbullying that have resulted in suicide. Now that I have improved my MIL skills, I tend not to believe any news until I am able to define the course of it”.

Basma Abdel-Qader, an ILearn volunteer and training participant, has herself been a victim of cyberbullying in one incident and reinforced the importance of media literacy. “MIL is so important in containing the negative impact that the manipulation of social media can have”.

While all bullying is harmful, participants of the cyberbullying and hate speech session felt strongly that cyberbullying was in fact more insidious than face-to-face bullying. Participant and ILearn volunteer Mujahed Obeid once had someone create a profile on social media using his information and pictures. Mujahed was horrified to discover this person impersonating him, spreading intolerance. “Now that social media is so prevalent, we all have the opportunity to contribute to the news. We must do so responsibly”, said Mujahed.

UNESCO has become strongly engaged in advancing MIL in Jordan. The efforts have been praised by the current Prime Minister, HE Dr. Omar Razzaz when, as Minister of Education, he visited a MIL club in a local public school and stated that every child in Jordan should have access to the MIL extracurricular program that UNESCO introduced in partnership with Jordan Media Institute (JMI). This work on advancing MIL in higher education has resulted in the introduction of MIL concepts in several universities, with two universities adopting official courses and extracurricular MIL activities. UNESCO is working to strengthen and build upon these results with the MIL sessions under the UNESCO-UNCCT project in collaboration and with funding from the Government of Canada .

This month, an interactive seminar will be hosted for youth, with a focus on teaching them to express themselves and understand their basic human rights using the arts while also encouraging youth to make positive contributions towards building a more tolerant society. Reinforcing this work, UNESCO will initiate an outreach and social media campaign, using a participatory approach to ensure that young people are involved in the design of the messages. Finally, in partnership with Media Diversity Institute, the UNESCO Amman office will develop and distribute a handbook focused on “MIL for CSO’s in Jordan”.