How to cope with information disorder through media literacy

BUCHAREST, May 20 2023.

Young people, teachers, experts, NGOs and authorities participate today in national media literacy conference

The second edition of the national media education conference “FAKE or NEWS? Learn to ask the questions that protect you” starts today. The event is organized by the Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and UNICEF in partnership with the Romanian-American Foundation and can be watched live, online. The conference brings together NGOs, opinion leaders, international experts, officials and teachers, but especially students, who are encouraged to actively participate in the discussions.

Throughout the day, teenagers, teachers, media literacy experts and partners discuss how media literacy helps young people prepare for times of crisis in the context of the infodemics generated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

The conference will open with a panel discussion by members of the Romanian Children’s Board and the National Students’ Council, in which they will share their experiences from the media literacy trainings they have attended and the activities they themselves have organised for students in their communities.

I attended a training held by the CIJ and learned about the most effective ways to differentiate between what is real and what is false, including from my own perceptions, not just in terms of news and media information. Then, together with my colleague Mihnea, I organised a series of media literacy sessions in Suceava county, targeting high school students. They in turn became multipliers and we launched a wave of media literacy among young people in Suceava. We helped them understand how important it is to process the information you receive before accepting it as true and sharing it further.

Rafaela, 15, member of the Romanian Children’s Board and of National Council of Students

The event will continue with a debate based on the question that gives the name to the conference, in which representatives of the authorities, CIJ, Romanian-American Foundation and UNICEF will participate. They will discuss the importance of media education and the role of each party involved in the programme.

We started the conference with a question ‘fake or news?’ because questions engage our curiosity and develop the critical thinking we need in difficult times. We use ‘fake news’ too often, whenever we don’t like a particular message. We mix messages that misinform us with messages that just mislead us by mistake, clickbait, unmarked paid content, posts we disagree with and more. But by asking questions, both of ourselves and others, we can train our curiosity, be more flexible and harder to manipulate. Let’s not take anything for granted, even if we like a piece of information. In fact, that’s what media literacy is all about.

Cristina Lupu, CIJ Executive Director

UNICEF supports the development of media literacy in Romania so that children and adolescents can acquire the essential skills they need today. They need to learn how to distinguish between opinions and facts, how to distinguish between false information and verified news. We can work together with children to share knowledge with more children, and one of the best examples is our collaboration with members of the Children’s Board and the National Council of Students, who have had excellent results sharing media literacy with their peers. We are also working together with academia to better prepare future generations of teachers to teach the necessary media literacy skills to students.

Anna Riatti, UNICEF Representative in Romania

In the second part of the day, the event continues with a series of workshops for teachers, students and young people on topics such as “How do we tackle difficult media topics in the classroom?”, “How can we protect ourselves? About biases” and “How do stories construct our reality?”.

The conference looks at the Ukrainian context and how media literacy can increase resilience within a society. Participants can watch online the presentation of the CIJ Media Literacy Programme in Romania, as well as the presentation of the media literacy programme in Ukraine, the latter being given by Valeria Kovtun, founder and director of Filter, the first national media literacy project launched in the neighbouring country. Filter focuses on developing the critical thinking skills of Ukrainians and promoting media literacy as a preventive measure against disinformation. To this end, Filter has launched an online learning platform, opened media literacy clubs, organised the first national “Reporter” competition for students and co-produced a TV project with Ukrainian public television.

“FAKE or NEWS? Learn to ask the questions that protect you” is a conference part of the Media Literacy Programme, signed by the Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and UNICEF in Romania, in partnership with the Romanian-American Foundation. The 2023 edition is organized with the support of ARCUB – The Cultural Center of Bucharest.