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Media Literacy: a Pre-Condition for Active Citizenship - CommGAP Releases Paper on Media Literacy

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In today’s fast-paced digital environment, new forms of literacy are quickly emerging. It is not only a challenge to keep up with new tools and skills needed to stay informed and engaged in the world around us, but also to find the time and resources.  While media literacy is not a new issue, it has quickly become an eminent one due to the fast speed and wide spread of information via new media technologies.  As a matter of urgency, the European Commission has issued a new recommendation, pushing its member countries to make media education available to all citizens and include it as mandatory in the school curricula, as well as adopt media literacy as a key pre-requisite for active citizenship. While internet penetration is high in Europe, there is an evident skill gap between citizens of different age-groups and socio-economic backgrounds in using the internet and new technologies. The European Commission believes that this skill gap and media illiteracy can lead to missed opportunities and social exclusion, and therefore, it’s important to instill media literacy skills in all sections of society. One could possibly also argue that citizens would also be excluded from realizing their political rights. The Commission further suggests that media literacy would be “a stimulus and a pre-condition for pluralism and independence in the media”, leading to multiple perspectives and diverse opinions that will enrich public discussions and specifically, lead to “a positive impact on the values of diversity, tolerance, transparency, equity and dialogue.”

Media literacy has been discussed before on this blog, and in CommGAP we believe it plays a crucial role in governance reform.  While a free, independent, and plural media system contributes to an informed society, it’s crucial for citizens to obtain the necessary critical abilities and communicative skills to participate meaningfully and actively in the public sphere.  Media literate citizens, who can access, analyze, and evaluate information, are better equipped to make informed choices and opinions that can have an impact on their daily lives and the communities they live in. Furthermore, media literate citizens are better equipped to make use of tools available to them and create content in a meaningful and responsible manner.  With its empowering effect, media literacy has the potential to build a society, capable and aspired to demand better services, hold leaders to account and engage as active stakeholders in governance reform.

To this point, CommGAP has just released a new paper on the role of media literacy in governance reform.  As I conclude in the paper, media literacy is a critical component for a healthy democratic public sphere to flourish.  Because we need a media literate society, we need to raise awareness of media literacy and its impact on development processes and establish a multi-stakeholder approach to affect policy change and successful integration. As the paper suggests, the responsibility of building media literate societies extends beyond the educational context. However, to gain support for policy development and advocacy measures, more research is needed to better understand the linkages between media literacy, active citizenship and good governance.  Finally, the paper includes a set of recommendations and possible action steps to integrate media literacy in governance initiatives.  We look forward to your feedback and views on these recommendations.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Jason. Hudson

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