The state of media and information literacy in Ghana
Many countries, including Ghana, now operate hyper-choice media systems.
Social and regulatory changes, coupled with technological advancement, have conspired to offer citizens almost unlimited access to mass media.
This development has led to quick and easy spread of information which has political, social and economic importance, but it has also given rise to fake news, disinformation, media spin, sensationalism and cyber bullying.
More than ever, there is the need for everyone to be aware of the information they consume in the media.
It has become necessary for us to critically evaluate media content such as advertisement, news, music, commentary, movies, among others, in order to decipher their true purpose and hidden messages.
This makes it imperative for all citizens to acquire and develop media literacy skills.
Broadly defined as the set of competencies required to access, assess and create media content in a variety of forms, media literacy is a vital skill for human development.
Media literacy is a human rights issue which can be traced to Article 19 of the UN's Universal Human Rights declaration.
It is further tied to the Grunwald Declaration on media education issued by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1982.
Among other things, the Grunwald declaration makes it clear that political, educational and social institutions have an obligation to promote in their citizens a critical understanding of the phenomena of communication.
Consequently, in 2012 UNESCO, in cooperation with other partners, initiated the Global Media and Information Literacy (MIL) week to promote media and information literacy across the world. In sub-sub Saharan Africa, many countries are still in the dark when it comes to MIL.
Although Nigeria and South-Africa have made some progress, the state of MIL in Ghana is appalling.
In August 2017, UNESCO and the University of Ghana organised a Media and Information literacy symposium as part of initial formal steps to build a national coalition around MIL in Ghana.
The symposium provided deliberative space to discuss media and information literacy issues such as addressing gaps in training of media professionals and mainstreaming MIL into educational curricula across all levels.
Beyond this symposium, there is no public knowledge and evidence of maintaining the momentum to promote MIL at the national level.
At the institutional level, besides the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) which marked the celebration of the 2017 Global MIL week with a seminar, and other informal activities such as Youth Twitter chat and radio discussion, no local event in Ghana was formally registered at the global MIL event website.
This is not good for a country with a thriving democracy and hyper-choice media landscape.
Also, with increased digitisation in Ghana and the steady flow of international media products such as telenovela and music videos, there is need for heightened media literacy among children and the youth especially.
Promoting MIL in Ghana is a shared responsibility of educators, policy makers, media professionals, civil society organisations and other relevant stakeholders.
At the national level, there is need to formulate a national Information and Media Literacy policy, which should be implemented along with the existing media policy and yet to the passed Right to Information (RTI) Bill.
At the institutional level, universities need to conduct more research on MIL in Ghana. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) can also advocate more inclusive media education.
While our institutions shake up slowly to do what is necessary, we (citizens) can all join in the celebration of this year’s MIL week from October 24 to October 31 and contribute to the promotion of media and information literacy in Ghana.