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Rebuilding trust: community journalism and media literacy

Community media was at the heart of a panel chaired by UNESCO on “Media and information literacy: Community journalism for better communities” to mark this week’s Global Media and Information Literacy Week.

Author: Christopher Chanco | 25. October 2022

Banner showing GFMD logo, image of people cooperating, and article's title Rebuilding trust: community journalism and media literacy

Community media by its nature has the potential to engage audiences and build trust in journalism through media literacy”, said Tom Law, GFMD’s Deputy Director. Media outlets that are rooted in local communities, reflect and understand their concerns and needs, and are well-placed to rebuild trust in professional journalism from the grassroots level.

The evidence that local, independent public interest journalism plays a critical role in encouraging political participation and reinforcing democratic values is growing (see also: this literature review developed by GFMD’s media policy centre, IMPACT)

According to Fondation Hirondelle, supporting context-sensitive, independent journalism can also be one of the cures to disinformation.

In a policy paper published last year, Hirondelle argued that there is a huge need to reinforce trust in professional media in fragile contexts, in particular, “where access to reliable information for the majority is not a given, and where rumours, hate speech and propaganda undermine peacebuilding and development.

But for community media to perform their vital social function, they must have the resources to be able to invest in high-quality reporting, while committing to transparency and journalistic integrity at all times, said Law.

On the panel discussion, Law drew on his experience of promoting the relationship between media literacy, transparency, ethical standards and trust at the Ethical Journalism Network and as a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of experts on quality journalism in the digital age, which produced a study on Supporting Quality Journalism through Media and Information Literacy.

The study found that:

Some of the MIL knowledge and skills required for people to recognise and value quality journalism in the digital age relate to knowing how the media is regulated and how the media is funded, understanding rights and responsibilities in relation to data and privacy, and having knowledge of how social media and search platforms operate.”

However, these were also the skills and knowledge least likely to be addressed by the projects analysed in the study.

Rebuilding trust in journalism is a process that must take place across three levels,” Law told the panel – a process that entails transforming newsroom cultures, mainstreaming ethical values among individual journalists, as well as carrying out reforms at an industry-wide level to ensure professionalism and integrity in the media sector.

Community media and information literacy

Lina Chawaf, President of GFMD member the Community Media Forum Europe also spoke at the event and CMFE’s efforts to bring together community media associations, notably radio stations, across Europe, including Belgium, Spain, and Hungary “to identify, test, and document media and information literacy best practices across the European community media landscape.”

Chawaf, who is also the director of Syrian radio station Rozana FM, told the panel that despite their vital role, limited staff and tight budgets mean that small independent media sometimes need help to meet the high standards that they aspire to.

CMFE’s goal is to offer a platform to share best practices, especially in the area of capacity building and peer-to-peer learning, and also “develop methods for evaluating the impact of these trainings”.

Sally Tayie from the International Media and Information Literacy Institute, also spoke on the panel, which was moderated by John Okande, Programme Officer at the Unesco office in Nairobi.

The session was part of the Global Media and Information Literacy Week (GMILW), co-organised by UNESCO and the Nigerian government around the theme, “Nurturing Trust : A Media and Information Literacy Imperative”  (24 -31 October 2022).

The panel discussion drafted a number of policy recommendations that were submitted to UNESCO. In addition to encouraging donors to allocate more resources to supporting community media, the participants called on policy-makers and media development actors to help “mainstream local voices in programming and production” while promoting media pluralism and independence in community journalism.

To know more about how to support journalism and media, sign up for a newsletter from GFMD IMPACT – the Global Forum for Media Development’s International Media Policy and Advisory Centre.  Join our growing community!


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