“Without language, there is no humanity. Without journalism, there is no democracy. Without Media and Information Literacy (MIL), there is no democratic human conversation”José Manuel Pérez Tornero Director of the UNESCO Chair for MIL for Quality Journalism, Media and Information Literacy in Journalism.
What is media and information literacy and why does it matter for freedom of expression?
Freedom of expression and media and information literacy are intrinsically linked.
Media and information literacy (MIL) equips people with the knowledge and skills to understand how information is produced and distributed. It also informs people about what laws are needed to support a free and independent media.
When people are media literate, they can critically assess news, information, and all forms of media content. Vitally, MIL also allows people to demystify harmful content such as disinformation and hate speech.
As a result, MIL better enables people to participate in the public exchange of news and ideas.
Moreover, by building an understanding of international media freedom principles, MIL also contributes to an enabling environment for the exercise of free expression.
ARTICLE 19 believes that media and information literacy is a key response to disinformation, hate speech, unfair content moderation, and poor transparency – some of the biggest information challenges of our time.
Why is it so important to understand how to strengthen media freedom?
An understanding of the essential elements of freedom of expression and media freedom is part of the skills and knowledge that MIL seeks to foster.
A free and independent media – the sort of media that can produce reliable information – requires an enabling legal and regulatory environment to support its independence.
Under international human rights law, governments are required to ensure that their media laws and policies comply with international standards. When people are made aware of these standards, it becomes easier to pinpoint weaker laws or policy loopholes that hinder the production of information wherever they may live.
In addition, people are better equipped to demand their media is protected, remains independent, and ultimately reflects diverse voices.
What is ARTICLE 19 calling for?
Freedom of expression and media freedom standards should be an integral part of all MIL programmes and initiatives.
- States should include MIL in educational programs and in life-long learning initiatives. At the very least, MIL curriculums should:
a) Explain the key principles of international freedom of expression and media freedom standards.
b)Teach people the skills to identify and combat harmful content, such as hate speech, disinformation, and censorship.
c)Raise awareness of the challenges faced by marginalised communities and ensure that their voices and concerns are fairly represented.
- Independent media regulatory authorities and press councils should run and take part in MIL initiatives to ensure that journalists adhere to media ethics.
- Media houses, journalists’ associations, and unions should run and take part in MIL initiatives to improve the provision of accurate and reliable information, and to build trust in independent media and journalism.
Learn more about ARTICLE 19’s work on MIL
International: Can media and information literacy protect journalists?
Tunisia: Free expression and media literacy during the pandemic
Bangladesh: Training for media ethics, digital security and media laws
“In today’s disorienting information landscape, it is extremely difficult for people to understand what news and information can be trusted. And for the media to produce reliable news and information it must be free and independent. But to protect the media’s independence a solid legal framework is required – one that is compliant with international standards on freedom of expression.Roberta Taveri, Media Freedom Programme Officer, ARTICLE 19
Media and information literacy plays a vital role to bridge these gaps, to equip individuals to exercise their right to freedom of expression, and to demand that this freedom be fully realised.”