New Media, Youth and Security in Africa Featured

Monday, 18 April 2016 00:00 Written by  Published in The Nation Read 2479 times
Pan African Conference on Media and Information Literacy Pan African Conference on Media and Information Literacy Adam Alqali

Recently, the Pan-African Alliance on Media and Information Literacy (PAMIL), UNESCO and DW Akademie hosted the 2nd Pan African Conference on Media and Information Literacy, MIL, which discussed issues around the media, youth and peace on the continent. ADAM ALQALI reports

The need for African youth to have access to the right information in the media and have the capacity, knowledge, skills and attitude to critically and effectively engage with the new media, internet and other sources of information so they don’t get brainwashed and radicalized, was the core idea behind the 2nd Pan African Conference on Media and Information Literacy.

The conference themed: “A Culture of Dialogue – Communication and Information in a Digitising World,” brought media and information literacy stakeholders, including media experts, journalists, information scientists, librarians, students, youth and civic activists from across the African continent and beyond.

The conference which was aimed at building on the efforts of the continental Media and Information Literacy (MIL) platform featured presentations, discussions and debates on current approaches and perspectives on the growing media and information literacy field in Africa.

Speaking on MIL in Africa at the conference, Chido Onumah, coordinator of the African Center for Media and Information Literacy, AFRICMIL, said media literacy has to do with access to information and media which he says is the big issue in Africa.

“We still have a long way to go“, said Onumah, “compared to other parts of the world like Canada and the US, where MIL is part of the curriculum in schools, NGOs and social clubs.

“We need to integrate various media platforms (digital and traditional) so as to be able to create awareness on the relevance of media and information literacy in the new knowledge-based society.”

He believes there is a huge dichotomy between media literacy and information literacy in Africa, noting that there is a lot of information in museums and libraries which, according to him, needed to be integrated into Africa’s media and information literacy platform. “We need to empower teachers, students and parents on how to use technology to access information.”

Also speaking, Monica Chibita, director of the Mass Communication Department at Uganda Christian University, UCU, Kampala, stresses the need to carry out a survey across Africa to ascertain the true status of media and information literacy on the continent. Cecile Ouattara, a professional librarian from Bibliotheque UFR Sciences Medicales Universite De Cocody in Ivory Coast, in her submissions, advocates the need for a network of people working in the area of media and information literacy across Africa. “In Africa, we lack information literacy; there is no platform to give accurate information across the continent, there is need for the works of all information literacy stakeholders to be integrated. The works of librarians, teachers, and journalists need to be integrated.”

In his presentation, ‘How Media Skilled is Africa’, Gbenga ‘Sesan, a new media expert describes the relationship between traditional and new media as one that is changing, adding that the information flow is now unpredictable.  According to him, “the challenge now is managing information and the personalization of news, news is not what people read – it is what they post. This has given birth to the breaking news and the dearth of thoroughness as well as the rise of errors.

“New media is a disruption that journalists must come to accept, that there is a natural marriage between new media and professional traditional media. Africa must use new platforms to improve the status quo.”

Speaking on respectful communication in a digital environment, Nanjira Sambuli, research manager at iHub, the Kenyan media policy research centre, dwells  on the relationship between hate-speech in the Kenyan online space and the deadly violence that erupted after the 2007 elections, and therefore makes a case for the training of youth against hate and ethnic jingoism.

Also speaking on respectful communication in a digital environment, Y. Ya’u, the executive director of the Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD, also advocates for the training of youth on how to positively use technology.

Ya’u speaks on CITAD’s hate-speech countering and monitoring campaign in both new and traditional media, describing the proliferation of hate and dangerous speech in both the social and traditional media as a phenomenon that could lead to potential disaster, violence and mayhem if not countered and handled well.

Talking on the role media and information literacy could play in countering activities of terrorists who radicalize African youth, Dr. Suraj Olunifesi, a Mass communication lecturer at the Lagos State University, LASU, notes that social Media and the internet are major purveyors of wrong information.

“MIL can help check online radicalization of youth by groups like IS and Boko Haram who use the internet as a platform for recruitment. MIL could be used to counter the terrorists’ narratives, to counter the information being spread by the terrorists by engaging them in constructive discussions and debates, which will go a long way in curbing terrorism in Africa,” Olunifesi advises.

The 1st Africa Media Literacy Conference was held in Abuja eight years ago and focused on empowering children and youth as well as advancing the benefits of information and communication technologies.

Fora such as this, participants believe, will shape and mould views and opinions of youth vis a vis the security of the continent.

Adam Alqali

Adam Alqali is an independent journalist whose stories have appeared
on africacheck.org, blueprint.ng andnewsdiaryonline.com. He can be
reached at aalqali@gmail.com