"Debunkin fake news is a trend in media development", says Tamar Kintsurashvili from the Georgian Media Development Foundation (MDF). Read the interview with her:
#mediadev: Why did you place your key focus on debunking fake news?
Actually it is a new trend in media development, because development of technologies allowed the spread of news and the manipulation of contents simultaneously. It’s quite difficult for ordinary citizens to distinguish quality media products from falsified content. We need to educate people and equip them with knowledge and ability to do this fact checking on their own and it works quite well. They are contributors to our online platform, Media Development Foundation (MDF). We are not imposing on people what is true and what is false. We are just teaching them to do this job on their own and it is quite successful.
#mediadev: Is fake news a big problem in Georgia?
Fake news is a problem everywhere, but we have the more specific problem of influence of outside countries, because Georgia is occupied by Russia and because of the consumption habits among society. Because with a diverse society some of them have problems with our state language and they are getting information from foreign media, from Turkish, Asia, Russian media outlets. There are so many interests in this country and there is no proper strategic communication on behalf of government to inform its citizens what is going on, because sometimes it is touching upon very critical topics like security, all kinds of conspiracies, and when you are not communicating properly others are using this empty space to do their own job, for their own political purposes.
#mediadev: Is it getting more difficult in our globalized world to discern between fake and true news?
Yes, it is quite difficult and it is not easy to do, when you come from work and you’re very tired, to use all these tools to check photo images or so on. It is quite time consuming, but at least we can be more careful about what we are sharing on Facebook and we should think critically before we are emotional and share content which is intended to be emotional and intended to harm others.
This is also a part of propaganda. It is not unintentional mistakes that are the problem, because we all are making mistakes, even the professional media in some cases, but we can correct these mistakes. But when this is done in an organized way, when its intention is to harm, we should acknowledge the problem, because this problem is touching upon the basics of democratic society and we need truthful information to make decisions; in democracy truthful information is a power to make decisions, to make decisions based on true and fact-checked information. It is necessary for democratic society.
#mediadev: What is the biggest need in Georgia to promote media literacy?
There is a need to incorporate media literacy programs in school curricula, because critical thinking is the basis of media literacy. If you have developed critical thinking skills you can access all content critically even without specific tools and logic. That’s why it should be institutionalized. And we are working with youngsters. It is good, but it should come from schools and it should be part of education and there is no common approach from the government side. It is a challenge.
#mediadev: What is your hope for the future concerning media literacy?
I am optimistic about young people, because they are actually the best actors to disseminate their knowledge, even in their own families. Yesterday we were discussing whether we have uncles around us spreading disinformation, how we should approach this older generation? I think young people that are educated and trained are the best messengers to further communicate with their own family members, with other groups; this is a way for us to somehow address this global problem.
My daughter is in a totally different information bubble than I am. And her sphere of information is different, but because of my work she has something to share with the bubble I am living in. But you know, sometimes I learn a lot from her, because she is more open to new technologies and this is one way we of the older generations could learn about future, I would say.
#mediadev: What is your aim in being part of MILEN (Media and Information Literacy Expert Network)?
I think networking itself is a very good approach for media literacy, because media literacy is about sharing of experiences. And it is a good opportunity for our organization to present our resources, our activities under the umbrella of Deutsche Welle, which is a well-established brand all over the globe and at the same time to benefit from our partners. We all are different, we are working in different fields, we can learn a lot about the educational programs for schools, for example. We can take this very good experience and incorporate it in Georgian programs. That is why this network plays a crucial role in connecting us and spreading our experiences and reaching wider audiences rather than just the Georgian one.