In partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), The Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), has started a three-day media and information literacy training for the second cohort of young community leaders in The Gambia.
The training, which began on Tuesday the 14th of June, is expected to end on Thursday the 16th of June.
Highlighting the core objective of the CJID as a media and innovation think and do tank in facilitating the training, the Acting Executive Director, Dr Tobi Oluwatola emphasised the importance of media and information literacy as a requirement for democratic participation and preserving freedom of expression in an era where policymakers battle information disorder. This, he noted, has led to some states taking drastic measures, including social media regulations, bans and as was the case in The Gambia on the night of the last Yaya Jammeh elections, a complete internet shut down, measures, he said, “come at a grave cost a free society cannot afford.”
“Supply-side approaches such as a dictatorial policy that silence misinformation could also be weaponized by political actors to silence truth and promote disinformation. This is why perhaps the only solution is to manage the demand side by empowering the average person to discern information disorder through media literacy,” Dr Oluwatola said.
The UN Resident Coordinator’s Peace and Development Advisor, Dr Patrick McCarthy, further emphasised the need “to enhance youth participation in governance and peaceful democratic processes and to strengthen their capacities as advocates against hate speech and as agents of conflict prevention”. He said this while referencing a 2021 research commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and conducted by the Gambia Press Union (GPU) and the University of The Gambia, which found that most hate speech in The Gambia occurs mainly on Facebook and WhatsApp.
“The training is expected to help youth associations to mainstream and integrate Media and Information Literacy into their policies and programmes,” Dr McCarthy said.
Mr Omar Ba, Representative of the Executive Director of the Gambia National Youth Council, also admonished participants to understand the reason for the training in order to fully engage in it.
“At The Gambia, we have a young population and as young people, it is important how we disseminate information which contributes immensely to the peace building and the democracy we now have,” he said.
Similar to the training of the first cohort which was held in late November and early December 2021, the participants are being trained by Caroline Anipah, CJID Deputy Director for Verification and Media Literacy; Kemi Busari, Dubawa (Nigeria) Editor and Dr Morolake Adekunle, Dean of the School of Journalism and Digital Media, University of The Gambia and a former CJID research fellow, on how to understand the news, media and information ethics; civic participation in relation to media and information literacy; language in media and information; the opportunities and challenges of the Internet; digital safety, among others.
After the first day’s training, participants such as Isatou Secka, who is the founder and executive director of Women and Children Aid, The Gambia, acknowledged the information received and its benefits in their line of work.
“I now have an idea of organising a safe space outing for all women leaders and feminists on the importance of mental well-being and psychosocial support in civic engagement. This will be done at the beach with only women,” Secka said.
The three-day training, facilitated by the CJID, is part of a UN Peacebuilding Fund project titled “Young Women and Men as Stakeholders in Ensuring Peaceful Democratic Processes and as Advocates for the Prevention of Violence and Hate Speech” which is being implemented by UNESCO, UNDP and UNFPA together with the Government of The Gambia “to address the institutional barriers for young people, strengthen youth capacity for engagement and participation in governance and leadership, address hate speech and counter fake news and misinformation” as reiterated by Dr Mc Carthy.