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Experts discuss strategies for media and information literacy in Africa

To commemorate Media and Literacy Week, DUBAWA, the fact-checking programme of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), hosted a panel of experts in an X (formerly Twitter) Space on October 26, 2023, to discuss pressing issues in Africa’s media and information literacy.

Moderated by Silas Jonathan, DUBAWA’s researcher, the session had a stellar lineup of speakers, which include Chido Onumah, a journalist and media trainer; Aurelia Ayisi, a prominent lecturer from the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana; Akintunde Babatunde, CJID’s Programme Director, and Priscilla Amoah, a journalism graduate from the University of Media, Arts, and Communications (formerly Ghana Institute of Journalism). 

Over 600 people joined the space as panellists gave diverse perspectives that explored digital literacy, fact-checking, and initiatives to aid responsible journalism.

Countering false information

Ms Aurelia highlighted the distinction between digital literacy and media and information literacy. She explained, “Digital literacy refers to the ability to use digital technologies, while media literacy involves critically evaluating media messages. Information literacy focuses on accessing, evaluating, and locating information. Media and information literacy is the overarching term encompassing these aspects.”

Mr Babatunde explored the relationship between media literacy and sustainable development. “Access to information plays a vital role in various aspects of sustainable development, such as health, education, agriculture, and economic opportunities. Additionally, it’s essential to equip individuals with the skills to critically evaluate the information they encounter,” he said.

Ms Amoah shared her perspective on how well youths are prepared for media and information literacy skills, particularly in the digital media landscape. “No one is fully prepared when it comes to media literacy, especially in the dynamic field of communication,” she said. “It’s the job of journalists to ensure the accuracy of the information they present.”

Academic Contribution to MIL

Within the panel’s discussions on media and information literacy, a spotlight falls on how academic contributions can shape this critical field.

“Educators should use various teaching and learning methods to adapt to the evolving field of media and information literacy,” Ms Aurelia said. “Experiential learning, which involves learning by doing, is crucial. Educators must be willing to adapt to changes and continuously improve their capacity.”

Mr Onumah emphasised the significance of various strategies to combat false information. He said, “Government intervention is crucial in promoting media and information literacy. Building more libraries can make information more accessible to the public. We must also create counter-media to combat false narratives and integrate media and information literacy into school curricula to empower our youth.” He also highlighted the importance of supporting initiatives that help create more libraries, making information readily available.

While outlining several successful interventions and projects by CJID that enhanced media and information literacy in Africa’s digital space development, Mr Akintunde called for active investment and stakeholder collaboration. 

He said, “We must distinguish between bloggers, social media influencers, and journalists. Beyond media and information literacy, we need to address what drives people and how they consume information. To do this, we employ stakeholder mapping, engaging opinion leaders and influencers at all levels, religious leaders included. We continuously invest in investigative reports and work on digital platforms to sanitise the information ecosystem.”

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