The Deputy Rector of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), Professor Eric Opoku Mensah says the university will continue to step up its efforts in promoting media and information literacy in Ghana.
According to him, the university over the years has been at the forefront of media and information literacy activism in the country.
“We have organised various activities including stakeholder seminars that have brought together media practitioners, academics and civil society organisations to share ideas on how to promote media and information literacy in Ghana,” he explained.
Prof. Mensah was speaking at the 2020 Media and Information Literacy (MIL) workshop held at the university on Tuesday, October 27, 2020.
Professor Eric Opoku Mensah
The workshop, which will run for two days, is being organised in partnership with Penplusbyte, DW Akademie, UNESCO and the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO.
The theme for this year’s MIL is “Resisting disinfodemic: MIL for everyone and by everyone.”
A total of 60 people, including 30 facilitators from the non-formal education programme and 30 bloggers will be trained on MIL during the workshop to build their capacities on news analysis, evaluation and authentication.
Need for MIL
Touching on the need for MIL, Prof. Mensah said, “Every citizen must learn to use the media effectively because almost everybody today uses the media daily for one thing or another.”
For him, resisting fake news and disinformation “is even more crucial for us in Ghana as the 2020 general elections approach” and therefore the citizenry needed to be equipped with the necessary competencies to be able to decipher fake news from the genuine ones.
He was of the view that MIL is the key to enhancing democratic participation in Ghana as many citizens depend more on the mass media including social media for the information they need to make voting decisions.
Prof. Mensah noted that the effects of disinformation are dangerous because these campaigns detract people from critical issues and also have the potential to cause conflict and ultimately undermine the country’s democracy.
Preventing fake news
According to him, “Solving the problem of disinformation is complex” and will therefore need the services of media practitioners such as bloggers who are often blamed for disinformation to be ambassadors of MIL in the country.
He said “our ability to evaluate news articles and content will increase the effectiveness of disinformation countermeasures.”
Prof. Mensah therefore explained that the MIL workshop “seeks to provide the participants with the tools to actively evaluate the information they receive and consume, with the ultimate aim of preventing the spread of fake news and disinformation.”
He also said the workshop forms part of the university’s contribution to the attainment of universal MIL.
Efforts on MIL
The Programme Manager of Penplusbyte, Ms Precious Ankomah said preventing the spread of fake news and disinformation has been one of the priorities of Penplusbyte over the years.
He said, for instance, that when the Ghana Police Service ahead of the 2016 elections threatened to shut down social due to the influx of fake news, Penplusbyte decided to set up a social media tracking centre to provide some support for the police.
The Centre’s observations, she explained, discovered that fake news had increased exponentially in the country and therefore will require some form of training for the populace, particularly the young people who are mainly the consumers of fake news online and on social media platforms.
Ms Ankomah therefore said the workshop on MIL was in line with Penplusbyte’s agenda to make young people more critical about media consumption as well as to enhance their skills in analyzing and evaluating news in the media.