By Chimezie Godfrey
The Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Chido Onuma has said that Media and information literacy skill is a key component in the enhancement of good governance.
Dr.Onumah made the assertion at the AFRICMIL/Roasa Luxemburg Foundation Webinar on Building MIL capacity for youths and students in tertiary institutions to promote peace, intercultural dialogue, and democratic decision-making, October 14 & 15, 2020, in Abuja.
According to him, the objective of the workshop is to deploy the opportunity that new media and information technologies offer in tackling socio-economic issues.
“It aims to promote media and information literacy as a key component in the enhancement of democracy and good governance.
“I warmly welcome you to this two-day webinar on Building MIL capacity for youths and students in tertiary institutions to promote peace, intercultural dialogue, and democratic decision-making.
“This webinar is part of AFRICMIL’s Political Education Project which is supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
“The aim is to train, empower and galvanise youths and students in tertiary institutions across the country; to help them understand that because they are linked to the larger society by family, marriage, friendship, religion, ethics, culture and history, they cannot pretend to be indifferent to the fate of the larger society.
“And that as young and active members of society, they have an historical role to not only challenge the current social order but to work to change it,” he said.
Dr Onuma stressed that Media and Information Literacy skills are sets of competencies that provide young people with the ability to navigate the media, produce media, understand and critically assess information and media messages and apply them in their interpersonal and community relationship.
“In the last decade, the rapid development of new communication technologies has created unprecedented opportunities for media and information users around the world.
“Digital media has significantly facilitated access to information, allowing a wider range of individuals around the world, including in Nigeria, to not only consume news at a faster pace but also produce news at the same speed.
“Media & Information Literacy skills enable access to effective information and an understanding of the news media as well as help develop communication abilities.
“The aim is to provide youths with the knowledge of evaluating information and information sources with a view to addressing misinformation or bias about internet messages and news on different societal issues which can lead to tension, violence and truncation of the democratic process in the country,” he explained.
Dr Onumah disclosed that the intervention is planned to provide youths the opportunity to understand and deal with contemporary issues in a way that is responsible, informed, inclusive and effective as a way of ensuring unity, peace, and progress in Nigeria.
According to him, youths who make up a vital segment of the country’s population, the news media and the internet provide a window to the rest of the world.
“They provide tremendous opportunities, but also carry some risks.
“MIL helps youths take advantage of the opportunities, while safely avoiding the risks.
“While people get more access to information today than ever before, there is need for them to be equipped with the ability to critically assess the quality of news and information they are receiving and where necessary create their own messages,” he added.
Dr Onumah noted that the future of democracy in Nigeria lies greatly on the shoulder of youths whose energy, knowledge and approach to governance will help in promoting social and peaceful co-existence in the country.
“Daily, fake news and messages with divisive undertones are posted on social media for consumption by unsuspecting users.
“This in turn usually brings about one-sided discourse, pitting groups of youths against one another and giving rise to hate speech which threatens peaceful coexistence.
‘It is impossible these days to get an average youth to see issues as they are without attaching religious or ethnic sentiments to them,” he said.
He further said that the lack of cohesion among the youths has further allowed selfish leaders to keep looting the public treasury at will while denying the populace the opportunity of a better life.
“It is, therefore, important to empower citizens, particularly youths, with the ability to see through the antics of the peddlers of fake news and hate speech.
“Developing the capacity of youths to deploy the benefits of MIL skills to counter false information and promote positive information will go a long way in promoting social inclusion and national cohesion,” he reiterated.