This interview is part of the ”Digital Media Literacy in EDMO Round Table’‘ interview series that is published every month to highlight the work of the 14 EDMO hubs.
EDMO BELUX, DESINFO CHECK Monitoring Disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg, Bert Pieters, Mediawijs & Martin Culot, Média Animation, Belgium.
Who are the leading players in the BELUX region when it comes to promoting media literacy?
In Belgium and Luxembourg there are 4 regions, each of which has its own policy on media literacy. And in every region there is a dynamic and growing media literacy landscape with many organisations and initiatives that actively focus on strengthening the competences of their citizens.
But let’s try to define the main players.
In Flanders there is Mediawijs, the Knowledge Centre for Digital and Media Literacy, whose aim it is to support residents of Flanders and Brussels to use and understand digital technology and media, so that everyone can participate in society.
In French-speaking Belgium, the Higher Council for Media Education (CSEM) is responsible for promoting initiatives in media education. The board also has the mission of organising media education operations. Field operators, as the resource centers (for teachers), ensure the implementation of actions in the field.
For the German-speaking community in Belgium, a dedicated media centre (Ostbelgien Medienzentrum) aims to promote what it describes as ‘media competence’ and offers media education activities targeted at all age groups.
In Luxembourg, the Ministry of Education, Childhood and Youth brings together under its auspices different government entities that contribute to the promotion of media literacy.
Do you have any idea as to how media-literate people in this region are generally? Are there any types of measures that can be used to assess this over time?
Both Belgium and Luxembourg are in the 2nd cluster of countries in the Media Literacy Index 2022 generated by the Open Society Institute-Sofia. Belgium ranks 13th and Luxembourg ranks 22nd. That means that both belong to the group of “well-performing countries” when it comes to withstand the negative impact of fake news and misinformation. But that analysis mainly looks at media freedom and the attention to media literacy in education, and not at the individual level of media literacy.
Several studies look at certain aspects of media literacy. The Digital Inclusion Barometer gives us an indication of the state of digital skills (7% do not use the internet and 39% have limited digital skills), the News Barometer teaches us how young people deal with disinformation (and shows that, for example, only 42% correctly can estimate whether something is real or fake), the Reuters Digital News Report zooms in on news use (and shows that news avoidance rose over the past 7 years), … And a recent comparative study conducted by the research partners of the EDMO BELUX consortium showed that Belgian and Luxembourgish citizens are exposed to disinformation and that citizens generally do not believe false claims, but some citizens, especially those with more generalized conspiracy beliefs, do.
All those studies give an indication as to how things are, but there is no overall measurement of the level of media literacy among the population.
What are the main challenges you face in promoting media literacy in Belgium (Flanders/Wallonia) and Luxembourg?
Media literacy is one of the key competences in secondary education in Flanders. That means that it is an assignment for every teacher to work on it. But in Flanders there is no compulsory curriculum. Each school can therefore indicate whether they give lessons about algorithms a place in a subject such as mathematics, Dutch, history, etc. We have work to do to ensure that it receives attention in every school anyway.
Within the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, the partners in media education work in collaboration, in particular via the Higher Council for Media Education (CSEM). It remains difficult to communicate information, especially because there are many projects carried out simultaneously and within many consortiums. Communication of initiatives remains difficult.
And we still have some work to do to improve our cross-regional collaboration. This is going well within projects such as EDMO or Betternet. But there are still so many great projects that we can translate from each other or knowledge that we should share. If there is no framework, it is complicated to work on it.
What value do you think EDMO and the network of EDMO hubs in particular bring to the challenge of fighting disinformation and promoting media literacy in this region?
The EDMO project allows for more exchange between the community (French and Dutch and Luxembourgish) on these issues. Without the EDMO project, collaborations and exchanges would be almost non-existent. For example, I find it very interesting to be able to discuss the educational strategies in the different regions.
What types of media literacy activites have been organised by BELUX since it was set up?
We worked on a common repository of educational tools from Flanders, French-speaking Belgium and Luxembourg. After we collected all the tools to tackle disinformation, a feedback panel selected the 30 most inspiring educational practices.
The very best tools were translated into Dutch, French and English.
It was a learning process that also led to some enhanced lesson packages that we are quite proud of! We also organised training events for media literacy practitioners. In Flanders there was the News in the Class Day, and in French-speaking Belgium it was called the Round Table on Disinformation. In both cases it was a combination of learning and doing.
What plans do you have in relation to media literacy for the next 12 months for BELUX?
There will be a training event for media literacy practitioners in Luxembourg in September.
This fall we will also be launching a campaign aimed at people who sometimes doubt the news or the official reporting, but are still open to other opinions. The general idea is: doubting is completely ok, but we will help you with some tips to find some more certainty.
And there will be a huge closing event! On 28, 29 February and 1 March 2024, we will hold a conference in Brussels about the many faces of media literacy. With, of course, a lot of attention to the fight against disinformation.
Bert Pieters, Mediawijs, Belgium
Martin Culot, Média Animation, Belgium