Media literacy key ‘to combating fake news, hate speech’: Abu-Fadil

Media literacy in the Arab world is still “nascent,” but building awareness of critical-thinking skills can help fight fake news and hate speech, an expert in the field has said.

Arab News interview with Magda Abu-Fadil

Seasoned journalist Magda Abu-Fadil — who has worked for international news organizations like Agence France-Presse (AFP) and United Press International (UPI), and now runs workshops for journalists — was lead editor of “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).”

The book, published late last year, is a group effort by media experts to document the state of media and information literacy — and, said Abu-Fadil, “often the lack, or scant application” of it — in this region.

The complete May 16, 2017 interview in Arab News is available here.

MIL to Mitigate Violent Extremism

Experts met at United Nations headquarters to discuss how best to mitigate violent extremism and incorporate their findings into viable educational frameworks against a backdrop of mounting xenophobia, hate speech, and a deficit in critical thinking.

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative for the UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative for the UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

The February 2017 New York forum, co-organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations’ (UNAOC) Media and Information Literacy program and the United Nations Academic Impact’s (UNAI) Unlearning Intolerance program, was themed “Media and Information Literacy: Educational Strategies for the Prevention of Violent Extremism.”

Jordi Torrent, UNAOC's Media Literacy Education Project Manager, UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

Jordi Torrent, UNAOC’s Media Literacy Education Project Manager, UNAOC (UNAOC photo)

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil was part of the event with a presentation featuring case studies of positive initiatives from the Middle East and North Africa region that succeeded in mitigating violent extremism through engagement with youth.

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses UNAOC conference in New York

Magda Abu-Fadil addresses UNAOC conference in New York

She also highlighted examples of sedition, hate speech and xenophobia that are increasingly being disseminated via social media.

Her presentation is available in her Huffington Post contribution and LinkedIn blogpost.

The forum saw the Americas’ launch of the recently published “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa,” for which Abu-Fadil was the lead editor and a co-author.

Presentation of MENA MIL book co-edited-co-authored by Abu-Fadil (UNAOC photo)

Presentation of MENA MIL book co-edited, co-authored by Abu-Fadil (UNAOC photo)

The book was co-published by UNAOC, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Nordic Documentation Center for Mass Communication Research (NORDICOM).

Abu-Fadil stressed the crucial need for media and information literacy (MIL) worldwide as well as the necessity for news and religion literacy to combat today’s toxic environment.

Regina de Assis, former Secretary of Education, Ministry of Education, Brazil (UNAOC photo)

Regina de Assis, former Secretary of Education, Ministry of Education, Brazil (UNAOC photo)

She’s been trying to create awareness on the subject in the Middle East and North Africa region for decades.

In 1999, a colleague from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and Abu-Fadil designed a cross-cultural media project.

In 2007, she presented a paper for a UNESCO world literacy conference in Doha, Qatar entitled “Media Literacy: A Tool to Combat Stereotypes and Promote Intercultural Understanding.”

Guy Berger, UNESCO's Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development

Guy Berger, UNESCO’s Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development

These are just two of the many articles, chapters in books and blogposts she’s published. She’s written, spoken, and trained extensively on the subject.

MU Director to Arab Strategy Forum: Social Media Aren’t Just for Kids

Catch the wave and ride it, don’t sink under it, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told participants at the Arab Strategy Forum 2013 in Dubai.

Arab Strategy Forum 2013 logo

Arab Strategy Forum 2013 logo

“We can’t operate in the media with a Stone Age mentality,” she insisted. “Social media aren’t just for kids.”

To prove the point and debunk traditionalists’ thinking, she spoke, tweeted and shot video during her session on the relationship between Arab media and social networks.

Abu-Fadil speaks, tweets and shoots video at ASF 2013

Abu-Fadil speaks, tweets and shoots video at ASF 2013

She also said there was a lot of useful information online.

But equally important is the ability to use critical thinking to filter through all the disinformation and misleading content, she added.

Arab media and social networks panel

Arab media and social networks panel

The forum, organized by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF), grouped experts from across the Arab world and United States who discussed social networks and knowledge society.

MBRF CEO Sultan Ali Lootah opens ASF 2013

MBRF CEO Sultan Ali Lootah opens ASF 2013

They included Charbel Fakhoury, Microsoft’s vice president for sales and marketing in the Middle East, Mohamed Murad from Google Gulf, Kaveh Gharib from Twitter’s U.S. headquarters and Jonathan Labin from Facebook’s Middle East and Africa arm.

Dubai TV's Zeina Yazigi (right) chairs "Evolution of Social Networks" session

Dubai TV’s Zeina Yazigi (right) chairs “Evolution of Social Networks” session

Also on hand for the two-day forum in March 2013 were Saudi bloggers Molook Al Sheikh and Abdel Aziz Al Shaalan, Bahraini TV host Khaled Al Shaer, and Kuwaiti columnist Meshal Al Nami.

Emirati speakers filled the “Tweet Positively” panel that concentrated on religious aspects and positive values in uses of social networks, as well as individuals’ roles in protecting their nation from harmful media, and how to use Twitter for good causes.

Media covered the event extensively. [“المرأة العربية أكثر نساء العالم تفاعلا على مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي – النيلين”] [“موقع جريدة الأنباء – طباعة مقالة”] [دار الخليــــج-أخبار الدار-“المنتدى الاستراتيجي” يحذر الإعلام من عدم مواكبة “شبكات التواصل””]