Last week, the international literacy day was celebrated around the world. The theme this year, Literacy and Peace, was based on the premise that “literacy contributes to peace as it brings people closer to attaining individual freedoms and better understanding the world, as well as preventing or resolving conflict.” Today, basic reading and writing skills are not sufficient to effectively succeed in a knowledge-based society. The fast speed and wide spread of information have generated an array of new literacies. The following literacies are referred to as crucial to surviving in the 21st century: basic literacy skills, computer literacy, media literacy, distance education and e-learning, cultural literacy, and information literacy.
As discussed before on People, Spaces, Deliberation, media literacy is a critical element in governance reform as it can contribute to a citizenry capable and aspired to demand better services and hold leaders accountable. New technologies, coupled with faulty media structures, have created a stream of unfiltered and inaccurate information that can mislead and harm public discourse. Frank Baker, author and Media Literacy expert, cautions that “those who are not media literate or do not question media messages, or do not seek out reliable, trustworthy information, are destined to be tricked, misled and fooled by advertising, politicians, propaganda and more.” A media literate citizenry, who can access, analyze, and evaluate information, is better equipped to make informed choices and opinions that can have a direct impact on daily lives and communities. Media literacy is an important pre-condition when discussing democracy and development as it’s closely linked to individual freedoms, such as freedom of information and expression. Yet, media literacy has struggled to gain the momentum needed to make part in the development process.
In this vein, an international conference entitled “Media and Information Literacy (MIL) for Knowledge Societies” was held from June 24 – 28, 2012, in Moscow, Russian Federation. The conference, organized by UNESCO, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and others, was attended by some 130 participants from 40 countries, representing all regions. Attendees included experts from the government, academia, non-governmental organizations, associations, and media practitioners. The conference aimed to “raise public awareness, identify key challenges, outline policies and strategies, and propose possible responses to crucial MIL issues.”
A major outcome of the conference was The Moscow Declaration on Media and Information Literacy. The declaration includes twelve specific recommendations on the MIL concept and strategic framework for stakeholders to consider, see graphic below. You can read more about these recommendations in the declaration. Also, if you are interested in this topic, you may want to take a look at the wealth of resources UNESO has made available from the conference on their website.
The recommendations focus a great deal on awareness raising, collaboration, and the development of standards and tools for deepening the understanding of MIL and how it’s linked to individual freedoms. The Moscow declaration is certainly a step in the right direction, as it will bring awareness and help move the MIL concept forward. It can be an important advocacy tool for MIL both globally and on the ground. While there’s momentum, it will be important in making sure that the declaration is fully embraced and that the dialogue continues. Also, it will be critical to follow up on efforts made in implementing the recommendations on the ground, for sharing of good practices and identifying challenges in different contexts. Clearly, there’s a lot of work yet to be done in this important area, but at least MIL has been recognized among a broad range of stakeholders as a critical issue for development effectiveness.
Photo Credit: pipcleaves on Flickr