Day 2 of the MIL Conference hosted by MMFD, UNESCO, and IFAP: Stakeholders Affirm Need for ‘Media and Information Literacy’ to Challenge Violent Extremism

Two-day national conference on Media and Information Literacy for Prevention of Violent Extremism recommends engagement with education system, teachers, and students to confront extremism

(Islamabad, 18 Sept) Media and Information Literacy skills should be incorporated in curriculum and teacher training programmes to help the next generation of Pakistanis confront online hate speech and violent extremism messages on social media, speakers said at a conference on Wednesday.

Titled “Ba-shaoor Shehri, PurAmn Pakistan”, the two-day multi-stakeholder conference on Media and Information Literacy for Prevention of Violent Extremism was organised by the UNESCO Information for All Programme in collaboration with civil society partner Media Matters for Democracy.

Addressing the participants at the closing ceremony, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said media and information literacy skills are essential for citizens to navigate the complex information landscape.

Mr. Chaudhry said media and information literacy promotes civic engagement and democratic participation of citizens, which will help in efforts to tackle violent extremism. He said countries around the world had adopted media and information literacy policies and Pakistan should also consider it.

During the closing plenary session, distinguished speakers discussed the scenario of political polarisation in the country and the way it is leading to extremist tendencies online and offline. Panellists included Parliamentary Secretary Law and Justice Maleeka Bokhari, PML-N MNA Mehnaz Akber Aziz, and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Secretary-General Harris Khalique. They suggested that civic education for the public, including political workers, was necessary to bring about a culture of civility that does not repress dissent.

Earlier, participants engaged in a consultative session to spell out goals, strategic objectives, and action plans for integrating media and information literacy in the formal education system. The working groups of participants also identified commitments and responsibilities for various stakeholders including government departments.

In one roundtable discussion, representatives of provincial education departments shared their experience of reforming and updating curriculum. The representatives were informed about UNESCO resources that are available to assist the development of media and information literacy courses for teacher training programmes. The participants agreed that media and information literacy skills must be included in the curriculum at various levels of education to support value-based learning that encourages global citizenship, respect for human rights, and intercultural dialogue.

The conference was attended by government officials, civil society representatives, members of the academia, and media professionals from across the country. The event began on Tuesday with discussions on local efforts to prevent violent extremism, the nature of youth radicalisation, online misinformation, and effects of violent extremism on gender.

Professor Dr. Akram Shaikh, the chair of the UNESCO Information for All Programme national committee, thanked the participants for attending the national conference

During the closing remarks, UNESCO Representative for Pakistan, Ms. Vibeke Jensen said, “United Nations’ commitment to eradicate violent extremism provides the impetus to address the issue. UN Secretary General’s recent strategy and plan of action on hate speech reiterates that digital technology has given hate speech new areas to thrive on. Media and Information Literacy competencies can help address these evolving issues in democratic societies. These existing frameworks and action plans give us a starting point and policy direction and we intend to make use of this guidance here in Pakistan.”

Media and Information Literacy, a composite concept developed by UNESCO, consists of skills that allow citizens to articulate their information needs, seek access to credible information sources, critically evaluate media messages, and produce ethical news and information themselves.