Experts have emphasised the importance of reliable and factual information to enable citizens to make sound decisions and reinforce trust.
The experts were on a panel titled “Media and Information Literacy (MIL) for Global Citizenship: Values of mutual understanding and trust,” during the Global Media and Information Literacy Week in Abuja.
One of the panellists, Despoina Anagnostopoulou, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair on Intercultural Policy for Active Citizenship and Solidarity, emphasised the need for civic participation in society.
“For participation to be meaningful, citizens must also be able to form their judgement and make electoral choices in public spaces where a plurality of views can be expressed freely,” she said.
Ms Anagnostopoulou stressed that Media literacy should not be limited to learning about tools and technologies but should aim to equip citizens with the critical thinking skills required to exercise judgement, analyse complex realities and recognise the difference between opinion and fact.
She noted that joint efforts between media, online platforms, and relevant stakeholders are necessary to “promote the development of media literacy in all sections of society, for citizens of all ages.”
Speaking on diversity and the absence of mutual understanding in society, Kolawole Ogunbiyi, Program Manager, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), said that the absence of mutual understanding and trust in a society of diversity will always bring about conflicts; except if addressed systematically, through the core values of mutual learning such as transparency, curiosity, informed choices, accountability and compassion through MIL.
He noted that many countries across the globe have consistently witnessed violent internal crises whose causes are linked to intolerance to different or opposite views or close-mindedness towards other groups or communities.
Mr Ogunbiyi stated that promoting MIL which encourages citizens to seek and critically evaluate new views and information while also respecting diversity, could help promote peace and mutual understanding.
Syed Nazakat, Chief Executive Officer of DataLEADS, India, also highlighted the need for media literacy and trust among citizens.
He added that the new information ecosystem is characterised by the erosion of trust in media across different contexts and groups.