New media literacy project to support media literacy in Palestine

The Media Development Center at Birzeit University, the Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation (KVS) and Bethlehem University, are teaming up to develop training sessions and workshops in media literacy among adults. The partners celebrated the launch of the media literacy project for 2019-2020 in a special ceremony held at the center.

The project has already started with a Finnish-Palestinian course to train the trainers. Sixteen Palestinians and six Finns are training on key issues in social media, the identification of reliable information, fact checking, the ethics of journalism and cyber security. The aim of the project is to prepare individuals to discern credible information from misinformation in today’s media landscape.

President of Birzeit University Abdullatif Abuhijleh stressed the importance of implementing a media literacy project, especially in the current networked global society where citizens are required to be aware of the wave of information, misinformation, disinformation and distraction they are likely to face when surfing the internet. Ethical and professional media are crucial, according to Abuhijleh, in order to maintain people’s right of speech, expression and freedom of thought. But equally important is the ability to spot instances when ethics and professionality are not adhered to.

Speaking at the invitation of the Media Development Center, Ambassador Anna-Kaisa Heikkinen, Head of the Representative Office of Finland in Palestine, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to support Palestinian state-building, especially through education. Finland, according to Heikkinen, believes in life-long high quality and equal education to support the development of democracy, human rights and stability. She emphasized that the new project of media literacy supports developing the sustainability of societies through representing core issues such as the freedom of speech, expression and ethical and professional media.

Lauri Tuomi, the CEO of the Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation, said that the project is based on the development objectives of Finland, the EU and Palestine. He stressed that teachers and learners are the key pillars for making change in societies and pointed out that in modern communities, every individual should not only acquire and process information but also be able to identify unreliable information and inappropriate attempts at influencing.

Director of the Media Development Center Nibal Thawabteh described education as the most powerful vehicle to promote free, ethical and transparent media. Media literacy, according to Thawabteh, will help people to remain in control of their online presence and make the most of the opportunities provided by technology, enabling them to avoid becoming victims of fake news or biased information.

The project is being funded by as appropriations for development cooperation allotted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland for the academic year 2019–2020. It is a continuation of the Civic Skills via Media Education project, carried out in the period 2015–2016 in Palestine, which was also funded by Finland and resulted in the publication of a freely available guidebook titled Media Guide–Practice and Ethics of Journalism for Adults (2016), among other positive outcomes.