EAEA GRUNDTVIG AWARD 2016. The Israeli Palestinian conflict and the lack of tradition in reliable media affect the work of Palestinian journalists every day. The media literacy project lead by the Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation tackles the issue by strengthening the professionalism of local media workers.
The article series shares good practices by introducing the nominees of the EAEA Grundtvig Award 2016.
The project Civic Skills via Media Education in Palestine aims to strengthen media literacy skills of Palestinian journalists’ and public sector workers.
At the background of the project is the decades' long Israeli Palestinian conflict and Israeli occupation which causes isolation of the Palestinian journalists; a fact that makes their work in the region challenging. Besides the daily restrictions for freedom of movement, the Israeli lobbying and the lack of tradition in responsible and reliable media affect their abilities to get their voice heard outside of the region. At the same time the Palestinian media sector is developing rapidly and the use of social media increases quickly.
The project provides Palestinian journalists, NGO workers and public sector employees means to produce and critically evaluate information about events in the region.
“We want the journalists in the area to know their role and responsibility in the democratic society and respect the ethical guidelines of the profession,” says project coordinator and trainer Karoliina Knuuti.
Besides strengthening the professional skills of the media sector workers, the project contributes to the larger promotion of civic skills in the region.
“Our hope is to participate in the building process of the democratic Palestinian society, a society where people have civil and human rights, and where there is freedom of speech for everyone despite of their religious and political views,” Karoliina Knuuti says.
The project tackles media literacy challenges in Palestine with two methods: through workshops and by publishing an online media guide.
The workshops, held by Finnish volunteering journalists and media professionals, focus on media skills and journalism ethics in practice and in theory. The method enables the Finnish volunteers to share their knowledge with their Palestinian peers – and vice versa.
“The students in our classes aren’t afraid of stating their opinions – even if they contradict with ours. And through these debates we've learned a lot about their everyday lives, religious believes and cultural habits and norms,” Ms. Knuuti says.
The workshops are an opportunity to learn but they've also raised challenges. As an example, Karoliina Knuuti points out the issue of cultural sensitivity.
“In Palestinian society there are several taboos and delicate issues. These may be related to religion, women’s rights or to Israeli occupation. When conducting the workshop on media ethics, it is essential that we as foreigners create trust before we start talking about these topical issues,” she stresses.
The project has also created an open-access Media Guide platform and a correspondent printable PDF guide book that is published in English and in Arabic. The Media Guide is the first ever published media literacy guide for adults, that has been produced in these two languages.
At the core of the trainings and the Media Guide is to teach the local participants to be able to differentiate reliable and credible sources from rumors and propaganda.
The Media Guide extends the impact of the project beyond the Palestinian population – of which a significant number are refugees themselves – to for example the refugees coming to Europe from the Arab speaking areas.
The easy-access media literacy guide works as a tool to critically evaluate the reliability and ethicality of the visual and textual contents that they encounter in traditional and social media.
Text: Helka Repo
Photos: Aura Vuorenrinne and Karoliina Knuuti