Sarajevo, November 12, 2021 – Civil society organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina have limited knowledge and capacity to promote media literacy, as well as to educate citizens on how to recognize information manipulation, political censorship and fake news.
This is the result of a research conducted on the topic of the level of media literacy and the capacity of civil society in advocating for media freedoms in BiH, organized by the BH Journalists Association, which was presented in Sarajevo through the Zoom platform.
With the participation of 30 civil society activists, journalists and representatives of media and international organizations, the main researcher, Borislav Vukojevic, MA, said that the research included a total of 64 organizations, through two rounds of research, from all over BiH, primarily dealing with civic activism, democracy and human rights, but also social issues.
“More than fifty percent of NGO employees have gone through media literacy training, which is an encouraging result. When asked what they consider to be the biggest obstacle to improving media literacy within the organization, the most common answer was lack of time, equipment and lack of funds. It often happens that the value of media literacy is neglected, and funds are a precondition for the training to be of high quality”, stated Vukojević.
As he pointed out, when it comes to encouraging employees to use digital technology, more than 93 percent of organizations encourage their employees in that regard. Also, from the point of view of the organizations themselves, two thirds of employees need additional training in media literacy, and only about 17 percent of them are not adequately trained.
“In this second round of research, there is a big increase in organizing media literacy training. “Unlike last year, when there was a large number of organizations that did not complete any training, this year each organization had at least one type of education”, Vukojevic emphasizes.
He adds that the research also established that most non-governmental organizations had the opportunity to get acquainted with the phenomenon of fake news, and that more than 50 percent of organizations reacted to the violation of media freedoms.
“When it comes to the degree of media freedoms, 62 percent of them believe that BiH is a country with completely neglected media freedoms, and fake news is most often hidden by manipulating sources and hiding identity,” Vukojevic points out.
Vuk Vucetic, a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of East Sarajevo, believes that media literacy is important for society, and that this research has shown that the non-governmental sector recognizes media literacy as an important topic.
“The vast majority of organizations have had at least one training, and each of these small trainings contributes to the development and promotion of media literacy. This is the only way we can defend ourselves from the flood of various fake media contents, so that we have the skills and knowledge to recognize misinformation “, emphasizes Vučetić.
Sanja Dokić Mrsa from the Communications Regulatory Agency believes that non-governmental organizations have the greatest importance in BiH at this time when it comes to the development of media literacy.
“The state of media literacy reflects the state of civil society and that is why it is very important. We need to be aware that digital technology is changing and improving with incredible speed, and thus the media. That is why the education we are talking about today is important”, said Sanja Dokić Mrsa.
Mirjana Ćuskić from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bijeljina says that everyone in civil society organizations is aware that the lack of time and resources is the main problem when it comes to improving media literacy.
“Fortunately, we have opportunities to work in other ways on the processes of media literacy, especially with young people, and I think that the results of this research could be used for that process. I think that we should all work together on the development of the Handbook on Media Literacy, because I think that neither citizens nor young people are aware of how important this is in a society, “explained Ćuskić.
Participants in the discussion concluded that it is necessary to create a long-term strategy aimed at the systematic implementation and development of media literacy in all segments of society, as well as the development of the capacity of civil society organizations in this regard.
The research is part of the project “Free Media for a Free Society”, implemented by the BH Journalists Association in cooperation with the Association of Electronic Media in BiH with the support of the European Union, with the aim of strengthening independent and free journalism in local communities, as well as the application of European standards of freedom of expression and access of citizens to quality and objective information.