S.E.A Media Literacy Battle: from individual to regional-level strategy

Southeast Asia countries are young with over 50% of its 643 million people are under 30 and has an internet penetration of 58 per cent. Vietnam is not out of the picture. 

According to We are social, Vietnam ranks sixth in Social media growth in 2018, increasing 20% within a year. In short, youngsters currently are active on internet who play a main role in engaging online: like, comment, and share. That is why Media literacy is currently the main concern in across the region. 

Diversity and empathy matters

A six-day YSEALI Media Literacy Workshop was held in Yangon, Myanmar from March 17-22, 2019 gathering 51 young leaders from Southeast Asian countries and Timor Leste. It creates a platform for collaboration among participants and mentors across the region and encouraging young leaders to deepen their understanding of the importance of media literacy in a fast-moving, digital media landscape. 
6 working days were divided into many sessions such as panels with experts, break-out sessions for small groups on specific issues, and field trips to many cultural landmarks of Myanmar. The topics and activities were varied, from informative learning to experiential interactions, from conflicts reporting skills to fake news combating tools, from storytelling by documentary video to data-driven journalism and so on, and of course, networking between 51 diverse individuals who are passionate and motivated on fostering the region, especially on media literacy.

Pop Visuarut, a freelance photojournalist from Thailand, said media literacy in Thailand was quite subtle as they had not faced much fake news on the media. However, during the recent election there was some polarised news like fake recording and altered images. “Though our people are quick to tackle fake news, we have no media literacy course that teaches in a school”, he admitted. 

He does think that YSEALI is quite a good space to meet youth working in the media industry across Southeast Asia. And it is quite important to bring diversity in the workshop.

Thu Nguyen, a lecturer from Faculty of Broadcasting, Academy of Journalism and Communication agreed to that viewpoint since the issue of media literacy is not limited to the country, but regionally. 

“The speed of spread of fake new is also borderless. I think it needs a connection between countries in this regard. In addition, stories and experiences from other countries are also lessons for each other”, she added.
Some mentors also believe though they are from dissimilar backgrounds, the interaction and communication with each others can gap the bridge between perspectives and enhance understandings. They learnt or even changed their perception about not only media landscape but also other countries’ politics, society issues, economy, etc,.... These are the key factors to create empathy which avoids hatred speech or fake news among the community or the region as a whole.

Video https://www.facebook.com/usembassy.rangoon/videos/345865779367779

A fight from individual to national-level

To apply for the program, each participant had to propose a project to a national or regional policy regarding media literacy or an area that the media community would like to shape or influence. They brought to the workshop a variety of ideas and their enthusiasm. 
At personal level, a mentor mentioned to tackle fake news on social media platform, every digital native should report posts that they think they are disinformation or contain hatred speech which are harmful for a person, a nation or a region, for example, the live-streaming video of Christchurch, New Zealand shooting. Every report counts for a clean social media environment. Other speaker suggested if we had to complete a safety test before getting driving license, we would need to take a media literacy exam before buying a smartphone or registering for an internet connection plan. 

Many participants are already in the battle against fake news in their own countries.

Marlon Nombrado, co-founder of Out of the Box initiative, said, the Philippines are one of the highest nation in terms of internet penetration, Facebook and mobile phone usage worldwide. In addition, their current political dynamics can be described as toxic and polarized. Therefore, fake news is overwhelmingly spread, traditional news sources are distrusted, and hate speech and uncivil discourse dominate online communication. 

“Good thing we have multiple efforts already to battle this. Media literacy is introduced in the high school curriculum three years ago. Different educational efforts are also initiated by alternative media, universities, civil society groups, etc. And Out of the Box is one of them which is already turning 5 this year”, said Marlon. 

Out of the Box organization (http://www.ootbmedialiteracy.org/whatwedo/) promotes media literacy through workshops, campaigns and resources since they realized that critical thinking about media is not something that should be limited only to media students per se but everyone engaging with it should  develop certain basic skills in media. Until now, they have reached thousands of students and teachers from different provinces, and economics backgrounds.

Pop Visuarut is working with a photographic organization called “Real frame” which holds workshop every years started in 2017. The workshop aimed to promote visual storyteller and human right. From this year, they are planning to include media literacy in the program.
In Vietnam, Realizing that the education of communication knowledge in the school system has not been strongly invested, Thu Nguyen and her colleagues had worked together on a project to improve communication capacity for young people in Vietnam. 

She explained, “We have designed and built a free online course on communication. The course with the content is the video and the system of exercises and assessments. Many young people have attended the course and have good feedback”.

However, to make young people know and participate in the course is still a difficult aspect they have to resolve.



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