UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

11/22/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/22/2020 14:19

Kenyan Parliamentarians trained on Media and Information Literacy

UNESCO supported the Media Council of Kenya to train of Kenyan legislators from the Parliamentary Committee on Information and Communication and Technology on Media and Information Literacy on 22 October 2020 in Kenya.

The workshop which was attended by 19 parliamentarians aimed at empowering them with knowledge on Media and Information Literacy and also to create more awareness on the importance of enacting a legal and policy framework on Media and Information Literacy for Kenya. It further provided an opportunity for the legislators to be presented with the draft National MIL Policy and Strategy document prepared by the Council with the support of UNESCO.

In his key note address, Mr David Omwoyo, Chief Executive Officer, Media Council of Kenya(link is external)stated that Kenya needs a National Policy on Media and Information Literacy.

'Media and Information Literacy is important and we therefore urgently need to develop and adopt a strategy and policy for the country. Without a policy, we risk coming up with laws thinking they will protect Kenyans from harmful media content, but in turn limit freedom of expression yet the benefits of access to information outweighs the limitations', he echoed.

He further stated that the Council will work closely with parliament to ensure effective enactment of a legal and policy framework that will make it mandatory for media and information literacy to be included in educational curriculum and also taught in educational institutions in the country.

Hon. William Kisang, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Information, Communication and Technology, acknowledged the need for the country to quickly consider the request to enact a law domesticating MIL, and reiterated the importance that Kenyans are shielded from the influx of unnecessary information and suspect media contents that can be a recipe for chaos and exposure to harmful information.

'As a committee responsible for policy issues on Information, communication and technology issues in the country, we are going to work closely with the relevant ministries and state agents' to ensure that we enact policies that are conducive to responsible media content use that is well regulated. Media is a very critical player in the democratization process of the country, but only when utilized well and understood', he highlighted.

Hon. Annie Kibeh, a Committee Member welcomed the proposals for enacting a National Policy and Strategy on Media and Information Literacy, indicating that it was long overdue. She further stated that the Kenyans are grappling with misinformation, propaganda, and harmful contents, thus being unable to differentiate good content from bad content.

Professor Levi Obonyo, Dean, School of Communication and Journalism at Daystar University delivered a presentation titled 'Media and Information Literacy in Kenya: Pressing Needs', in which he highlighted the critical need for enactment of a MIL policy and strategy in Kenya. He stressed the very purpose of having a National Policy Media and Information Literacy, to ensure that all citizens are empowered to understand the functions of media and other information providers, to critically evaluate their contents, and to make informed decisions as users and producers of information and media contents.

'It is through the national policies and strategies that we will be able to empower the youth with the necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies required for the 21st century. It is therefore important that the Committee sees the advantage of having a country MIL policy which will ensure that public interest is safeguarded as the public will be trained on how to interrogate news and information they come across', he advocated.

He further insisted that 'We need to learn how to reconstruct, unpack, and consume information and apply it in our everyday experience, without the skill we fail in Media Information Literacy. If we are poor in the media sphere, then we are poor in democracy. People need to learn how to access information in order to understand and know where to get information.'

Mr Victor Bwire, Director of Training and Media Development at Media Council of Kenya recalled the centrality of a National MIL Policy, linking it to the much needed legal and policy framework to ensure that young people are capable of protecting themselves from unnecessary, dangerous and indecent exposure to the pool of content currently available on the internet. He further argued:

'It is time we put in place structures and mechanisms that help Kenyans to become responsible content users. There is need to educate people on self-regulation, to help people understand the content they are consuming and producing and its impact on individuals and the society at large.'

The members of the Parliamentary Committee urged the Council to initiate the process of preparing a draft policy on MIL for Kenya and invited UNESCO technical expertise in this process. The council was further urged to creating more awareness among citizens on the importance of Media and Information Literacy competencies and to propose mechanisms how critical stakeholders of the media industry, but also the youth, can be empowered for a more effective use of their access to the internet/media.

'The Council should focus on a solution approach method and come up with ways of regulating media users and media practitioners without necessarily limiting their access to information and freedom of expression', Hon. Joshua Kimilu advised.

Enhancing Media and Information Literacy (MIL) competencies among media professionals, practitioners, and regulators is a key component of UNESCO's strategy to promote knowledge societies and foster the development of free, independent and pluralistic media and universal access to information and knowledge for good governance.

This activity was implemented as part of UNESCO's thematic action for ensuring that pluralistic media institutions are facilitated, while citizens are empowered through enhanced MIL competencies for civic participation and engagement in Kenya, as the basis for reinforcing strong institutions for effective democratic governance.