AGAHI organizes a town-hall dialogue-Media and Information literacy empowers people to build collective

QEUTTA: Media literacy and freedom given to information continuously sways the practices of the industry in Pakistan. This raises many questions about media’s influence on the cognitive behavioral response of the public.

To highlight and identify the need to develop editorial space for education journalism; academicians, journalists and development sector professionals, students debate and discuss safety and security of journalists, the psychological effect of media’s exposure, AGAHI in collaboration with UNESCO Pakistan organized a town-hall dialogue on ‘Media and Information Literacy and Education Journalism in Pakistan’ today at the Marriott Hotel Islamabad.

Ms. Puruesh Chaudhry, Founder & President AGAHI, opening the discussion forum, encouraged the stakeholders to review policy gaps and devise sustainable interventions that enables the citizenry of Pakistan to make decisions that improves the quality of not only their lives but which also empowers the society to move forward. She further added, we are no longer living in times when one can work in isolation; collaborative networks are the future for planning and decision-making.

Ms. Vibeke Jensen, Representative/Director of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), while talking about media and information literacy said that empowerment of people through Media and Information Literacy (MIL) is an important prerequisite for fostering equitable access to information and knowledge; promoting free, independent and pluralistic media and information systems. She said that Media and Information Literacy recognizes the primary role of information and media in our everyday lives. It lies at the core of freedom of expression and information – since it empowers citizens to understand the functions of media and other information providers, to critically evaluate their content, and to make informed decisions as users and producer of information and media content. She mentioned that UNESCO’s strategy brings together the two fields, Information Literacy and Media Literacy, as a combined set of competencies, knowledge, skills and attitude, necessary for life and work today. MIL considers all forms of media and other information providers such as libraries, archive, museums and Internet irrespective of technologies used.

The first interactive session of the town-hall meeting had experts on education journalism in Pakistan. “Education plays a catalytic role towards human development, both at the individual as well as at the societal level”, said Dr. Abdul Siraj, Head of Mass Communications Department Allama Iqbal University. Since mass media have the potential for reaching colossal audiences, the journalist has a vital role to play in wiping out these social menaces”, he added. He also said that Education is needed not only for personal development of citizens, but also to produce a skilled workforce, promote economic growth, preserve and promote culture and values in the society, and enhance participation of all segments of population in decision making at various levels.

The second session focused on the cognitive behavioral response and psychological limitation to learning emphasizing on the importance of using media’s editorial and broadcast content as a tool for molding and changing perceptions to create a prosperous society.

While talking to the participants, Ms. Nausheen Shahzad, Educational Psychologist, said that continuous reporting of terrorism and extremism can be suggestible, adolescents may turn into terrorists by identifying themselves with these terrorists, considering them as reformers. She further added, or they simply become conditioned and show no empathy towards such news, becoming insensitive to world issues altogether.

The issue of safety and security of journalists in Pakistan with respect to ethical dimension was explored in the third session. The session addressed challenges related to access, privacy, safety and security of journalists. Encapsulating basic provisions proposed by the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, of the scale and number of attacks on journalists and media workers as well as of incidents affecting their ability to exercise freedom of expression by threats of prosecution, arrest, imprisonment, denial of journalistic access. Number of measures have been adopted by the United Nations (UN) at the international level; the UN Security Council adopted Resolution S/RES/1738 in 2006, which established a coherent, action-oriented approach to the safety of journalists in armed conflicts.

Mohammad Baligh ur Rehman, Minister of State for federal Education, Professional Training, Interior and Narcotic Control, Ms. Vibeke Jensen, Director UNESCO, Mr. Haroon Rashid Editor BBC, Mr. Zahir Shah, Executive Vice President BOL, Ms. Fareeha Idris, Anchorperson and journalist, Mr. Arshad Sharif, Anchorperson and journalist, Mr. Hassan Bilal, News Editor Dawn, Mr. Rana Jawad, Bureau Chief Geo TV, Syed Ali Shah, Bureau Chief Dawn News TV Quetta, Ms. Shazia Javed, Educationist, Dr. Abdul Siraj, Head of Mass Communications Department Allama Iqbal University, Ms. Nausheen Shahzad, Educational Psychologist, Dr. Zafar Iqbal, Chairman Department of Mass Communications Department Islamic University, Mr. Shahzad Baloch, Senior Reporter Express Tribune, Mr. Amir Jahangir, Chief Executive Officer Mishal Pakistan, Ms. Puruesh Chaudhry, Founder and President Agahi, and the journalist community as well as the mass communication students and faculty members of National University of Science & Technology (NUST), International Islamic University (IIUI), and Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU) attended the town hall meeting.

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