MIL Challenges and best Practices shared during a regional Conference in the Middle East and North Africa | Media and Information Literacy | DW | 25.10.2021
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MIL Week 2021

MIL Challenges and best Practices shared during a regional Conference in the Middle East and North Africa

A recent conference and a newly founded regional network in the Middle East and North Africa enabled MIL practitioners to share best practices and find solutions to regional challenges.

“We teach our children how to swim before we take them to the sea. We should teach our children media and information literacy survival skills before we allow them into the digital world.” With these words, Hania Bitar, founder and director of the Palestinian NGO, Pyalara, summed up the relevance and urgency of the issue.  
This isn’t just a concern in the West Bank and Gaza. Lighthouse Projects: Pioneering MIL Experiences in the Arab World– the regional Media and Information Literacy (MIL) conference organized by Pyalara with the support of DW Akademie– saw media experts, government officials, and members of civil society meet online to discuss the importance of MIL and its implementation in the Middle East and North Africa. At the same time, local conferences were also held in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia. 

The West Bank and Jordan: Examples of Successful Implementation 

MIL is already firmly established in the West Bank thanks to cooperation between Pyalara and the Ministry of Education. As a result, topics such as fake news, cyber attacks and digital security and rights are being brought to the attention of young people and different social groups. The Palestinian NGO has been an important partner of DW Akademie for years. In 2016, they partnered to develop a handbook to raise awareness of MIL issues among teachers and other stakeholders. The handbook is now used by the Ministry of Education. 

Thanks to the conference, a MIL network was established which offers countries in the region the opportunity to share knowledge about progress and the challenges they have faced, while learning from one another's experiences. Each nation is moving at its own pace. Some are futher along in their journey, while others are just beginning to recognize the importance of Media and Information Literacy. Carsten von Nahmen, Managing Director of DW Akademie, said: "With Pyalara in the West Bank and Gaza, and the Jordan Media Institute, we have strong partners in those countries, with a high level of MIL expertise. Even more important is our access to authorities, such as ministries for education and youth affairs. That’s the way to create sustainable structures in these countries."

Media and Information Literacy: Significance and Challenges 

Media and Information Literacy (MIL) is defined as the ability to access, analyze, create, reflect and act on media. DW Akademie understands MIL as a prerequisite for citizens to claim their rights to freedom of information and expression. MIL practitioners around the globe work on projects and develop curricula tailored to the media ecosystems in their countries. Different kinds of MIL projects enable citizens to understand and use media responsibly. When used correctly, it is an important tool to improve democratic society.  

The conference shed light on the many challenges ahead facing the spread of MIL in the region. One of the biggest challenges is the general lack of awareness when it comes to Media and Information Literacy. According to Hania Bitar,  “The major hardship that hinders the development of MIL in the region is the large gap between the resources available and the resources required in the face of the fast and vast spread of digital media, which are widely used by children and young people.”  

This is reflected in the fact that decision makers, and, in particular, academic institutions, do not pay enough attention to the issue. Similarly, educational infrastructure in the region is characterized by a lack of specialized and trained human resources. “Without qualified people, it will be really difficult, if not impossible, to promote the MIL concept. And, of course, university and school curricula lack defined MIL concepts.”, continues Bitar. Additionally, there is also a shortage of the equipment and tools necessary for MIL training courses.  

The future of MIL

The conference aimed at raising awareness of the importance of MIL in both the individual nations and in the region in general. Similarly, it aimed at building a network between MIL actors and players across the Middle East and North Africa. These goals go hand in hand with supporting civil society organizations in building Media and Information Literacy competencies. Another important objective was to inspire government employees and ministry officials responsible for education to use best practice examples to integrate MIL into school curricula.  

“MIL skills are our survival skills online. They need to be integrated into our educational systems because they affect our lives on all fronts.”, explains Hania Bitar. Integrating MIL into the curricula would help protect pupils from misinformation, negativity and stereotypes. This will enable them to better understand the media culture surrounding them. In turn, they will be able to filter content for suitability and learn to deal with aspects of the media landscape while becoming critical thinkers and active participants.


Media and Information Literacy is also an avenue to encourage students to produce their own media content. Such work can deal with issues like poverty, family dissociation, extortion, bullying, exposure to racist and misleading speech and language, as well as other important issues for society. Hania Bitar reconfirms her standpoint, as she says, “Nations that neither acknowledge these realities nor enforce the necessary changes will end up paying a high price. The effects could have grave repercussions for the economy, as well as the health and educational systems of a country.”