Media Literacy in Kosovo: We must not protect ourselves from the media, we must learn to use them

Exposure to media content is on a massive scale, meanwhile, there is a huge gap in the knowledge of society, especially young people, on media content, to which critical judgment must always be held.

The need for media literacy for Kosovo citizens is greater than ever before because they do not need a simple discussion about and over the media, but they need a lot more knowledge about the media, media content, functions, and malfunctions that may appear.
The need to get used to the idea that we should not protect ourselves from the media is inevitable, so we need to learn how to use them. We should not get used to defending ourselves from dealing with media content, but we need to learn how to accept/refuse and refine those content. In many developed countries, it is concluded that it is a wasteful effort to teach young people to be protected by the media, so the focus is shifted to another level to learn how they can use them.
As much as functions for the good of society, the media also has dysfunctions that harm society. Along with the public information mission, the media can be a very important tool for educating the society, for sensitizing the society, for the fun of the society, and so on. However, the other side of the coin indicates the media as a means of propaganda, of misinformation, racial, national, and religious hatred.
The internet is extremely widespread in Kosovo. 93 percent of Kosovo households have internet access, more than the EU average. This statistic speaks to the potential for even greater impact of fake news, because the first step, which implies widespread internet access, is widespread among the citizens of Kosovo. Add to that the fact that there is a lack of preparation for spotting fake news, which only increases the chance of being influenced by fake news.
In Kosovar society, we often see how satirical portraits are misunderstood and we notice this in the comments of many citizens. An example is the publication of satirical news on the Pampress.com titled “Arrested Halil Matoshi, removes red and black flags from Pristina”, but not so understood by many citizens, who, without understanding this media content, do not accept humor but make a serious discussion of something frivolous.

Another example is the spread by some online media that a woman is kidnapping children in Malisheva and Prizren (https://balkanweb.com/alarmi-i-veshur-si-grua-ky-burre-po-grabit-femijet-afer-shkollave/). The effect of this fake news was terrible because that woman was attacked twice, in two different cities, Lipjan and Ferizaj (https://www.koha.net/kronike/166103/sulmohet-serish-gruaja-rome-tani-ne-ferizaj/).

Consequently, these are indicative that in our society there are adults, parents, and teachers who lack the knowledge about educating the use of media or simply, lack critical judgment.
But in order to create a critical judgment on media content, the pupils of Kosovo and also a part of Kosovar society should gain some basic knowledge of the media, its role in society, the types of media content (from information, advertising to the fake news), always bearing in mind the constant change of the media, mostly due to technological developments. The ever-growing use of Facebook by political and social elites is an incantation of the need for media literacy because everybody should realize that not all that he reads and that he sees in the media is trustworthy. It must be distinguished whether it is a fact, whether it is an opinion or propaganda.
Media has always been important and influential in a society, but its development, along with technology, has become today an inseparable part of each’s life. Without the media, it is difficult for many to think of the passage of minutes, meanwhile for something so vital, in our schools the discussion is minimal.
I want to share an experience from my academic career, which is related to media literacy. Last year I was as a guest lecturer at Marburg University in Germany. One topic of lectures was about fake news. To my question what is the main source of information, almost all students responded for “Tagesschau”, news edition of the public broadcasting, ARD, and their argument was because this news edition does not ever distribute fake news, is impartial and always reflects reality. They told me that in high school they had learned about media literacy and this had helped them to develop critical thinking about media content.
Exposure to media content is on a massive scale, meanwhile, there is a huge gap in the knowledge of society, especially young people, on media content, to which critical judgment must always be held. Therefore, we should not waste time as a society, but to take examples from the developed world, to follow and realize in Kosovo as well.
Considering the above mentioned, an effort to respond to this gap has also been initiated by the Media Institute in the Department of Journalism of the University of Prishtina in cooperation with the Institute for Development Policy (INDEP) with the support of UNESCO and the EU to increase the level of media and information literacy (MIL) among citizens. With a multi-sectoral approach, among others, the Media Institute and INDEP are in the process of adapting and piloting the UNESCO curriculum for MIL Primary and Secondary School Teachers. Although as a pilot activity, this experience aims to make recommendations as a basis for repeating this intervention in further stages. This activity, among other things, unites Kosovo with other countries of the region in efforts to include MIL in formal and informal education.
Also, together with some colleagues from the Department of Journalism of the University of Prishtina in cooperation with the United Trade Union of Education, Science and Culture of the Republic of Kosovo (SBASHK), we are conducting Media Literacy trainings with teachers throughout Kosovo. One of the aims of these trainings is to encourage teachers to propose media education as an elective subject in their schools, primary and secondary levels.
The need for media literacy in Kosovo’s schools is a necessity. So it is no longer just a need that may be questioned whether to be fulfilled or not, but it is already a matter that should be in the curriculum.
The need for media literacy is presently a lesson for life, as today, everyone and especially young people pass a large part of life on to and with the media.
Media literacy is more than one choice, it is a need for each because the use of the media is continuous.

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