Education stakeholders and media representatives discuss the role of education and digital citizenship in countering disinformation and hate speech during pandemic

18 June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to another form of pandemic which is spread of misinformation and disinformation, wave of hate speech across the world amplified by the internet. To minimize these risks and promote values of solidarity and human rights, it is vital that young people, as well as their educators and parents are supported to acquire core competencies of digital citizenship that will help them not only become more resilient to disinformation, but also engage positively and responsibly in the current online environment.

In this context, UNESCO Almaty organized its fourth COVID-19 education response webinar on 12 June to look at the dangers of misinformation, disinformation and hate speech sparked by the COVID-19 crisis and proliferating online and the role of education in countering them.

Participants including representatives of ministries of education in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Armenia, as well as journalists and media professionals from the Central Asian region attended the webinar and deliberated on the different aspects of the issue.

Ms Sanita Jemberga, lecturer of media literacy at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga (Latvia), delivered a keynote presentation on The COVID-19 Pandemic of Disinformation and Hate Speech: How can Education and Digital Citizenship help?. After a brief explanation of the terms such as disinformation, misinformation and mal-information (for UNESCO definitions please see below), which are often confused or conflated, Ms Jemberga emphasized the negative impact of disinformation surrounding the coronavirus. The presentation provided an overview of different waves of misinformation and disinformation during COVID-19, explored the drivers and root causes and conditions conducive to disinformation and hate speech, and underlined the importance of addressing digital citizenship through education. In Latvia, there is a programme where journalists go to schools and tell the students how they select facts and events that make the news and how they choose their topics, she said.

Ms Sanita Jemberga UNESCO Almaty

Following the keynote presentation, Mr Sergey Karpov, Communication and Information Officer at UNESCO Almaty, presented UNESCOs resources and guidance materials on Media and Information Literacy, Information and Communication Technologies and Digital Citizenship Education. These resources are important in mainstreaming learning that promotes respect for human rights, freedom of expression, and create a culture of global citizenship, which is particular significant for combating disinformation that can lead to violence.

The session also provided the opportunity to ministry officials and media professionals to share their experience and perspectives on the issue of disinformation, as well as rethink what educational responses can be taken to foster digital citizenship, address hate speech and minimize risks affecting young people during the current crisis, and in its aftermath.

Webinar participants recognized the importance of integrating media and information literacy as one of the key competencies of the 21st century to prevent disinformation, hate speech and violence in the digital space towards responsible global citizenship.

The recording of the webinar is available here.

*We refer to UNESCO's definition of the following terms:
Disinformation: Information that is false and deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organisation or country
Misinformation: Information that is false but not created with the intention of causing harm
Mal-information: Information that is based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, social group, organisation or country.

For more information about previous webinars:
The Vice Ministers of Education in the Central Asian countries agreed on common challenges in distance learning
Organization of examinations and e-assessment in the context of distance learning: Estonian and other country experiences
UNESCO, UNICEF and WHO support Central Asian countries in planning and managing the reopening of schools
education transforms lives
sustainable development
ICT in Education

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