July 28, 2020, in partnership with the Pakistan Peace Collective, a webinar was organized by UNESCO on “Strengthening Media and Information Literacy Competencies of Youth in Pakistan” within the context of the Covid19 pandemic. The webinar was attended by more than 200 participants including civil society, media professionals, academia, research and international organizations.
Ms. Patricia McPhillips, UNESCO Representative Pakistan, welcomed the participants and highlighted that media and Information literacy (MIL) skills are becoming increasingly relevant, especially for youth, which makes up more than 60% of Pakistan’s population. Mr. Shabbir Anwer, CEO of Pakistan Peace Collective in his opening remarks stressed that MIL is essential for citizen engagement and to enable Pakistani youth to use the online space constructively. He reiterated PPC’s commitment to this critical issue and mentioned ongoing collaborations.
Ms. Mahim Maher, editor SAMAA Digital, highlighted media’s limited capacity in terms of health reporting, the importance of multilingual reporting, the challenges of reaching vulnerable groups that cannot access mainstream media, and specific challenges women face in the pandemic environment. Mr. Waqas Naeem shared that there are very few fact-checking initiatives in Pakistan, and research evidence is lacking. Mr. Abdul Sattar Babar, Head of IPSOS shared research finding on citizens’ perceptions related to Covid19, which reflected that 97% of the survey participants had some kind of misconception regarding Covid19. Based on this, he highlighted the need to go beyond digital and traditional media to create awareness among citizens regarding Covid19.
Dr. Ayesha Ali, faculty member LUMS described various educational interventions that could counter misinformation on social media and stressed the importance of involving youth co-designers and partners for digital platforms. Founder of Lie Detectors, an organization working to build MIL competencies of Europe, Ms. Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck, stressed upon the importance of the information consumption habits of youth. These days, amongst youth, information is drawn more from visual mediums and apps which differs from more convention sources such as newspapers or TV. Therefore, there is a need to introduce educational interventions that allow youth to handle digital apps for information sharing. The speakers agreed on the need for empathetic, relatable, creative and interactive content such as games that appeal to young people, combined with educational interventions in collaboration with journalists, as the way forward.
The recommendations and best practices shared by the experts will be incorporated in UNESCO’s upcoming initiative to strengthen the Media and Information competencies of Youth in Pakistan. MIL has also been adopted as a component of the UN’s Joint Program on Youth Engagement plan (under COVID-19 response) by UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNPD and UNESCO.