BEIRUT: Seeking to spread media literacy across the Arab region, the Lebanese American University’s Institute of Media Research and Training (IMRT) launched the seventh edition of the Media and Digital Literacy Academy of Beirut on June 16.
“There’s no one way to define media literacy,” Jad Melki, director of the Institute of Media Research and Training, associate professor of journalism and media studies, and chairperson of the Department of Communication Arts at LAU, said. “In MDLAB, we aim to redefine the term in a way that serves our region.”
Melki presented seven main pillars that outline the academy’s definition of media literacy: critical inquiry, digital empowerment, civic engagement, collaborative research, social justice, emancipation of the oppressed, and inclusivity of the marginalized.
“MDLAB aspires to spread media literacy across the region through training participants and producing curricula that they can later use in their countries,” Melki added. “This academy will push you to reinvent media literacy and find ways to incorporate media literacy into you daily lives as individuals and into your communities and societies, with the aim of advancing social justice in your communities.”
Running until June 22, this year’s academy brought together 84 participating faculty, students, journalists, and activists from Arab and non-Arab countries.
Over a period of 8 days, those will discuss youth empowerment, fake news, media and terrorism, feminism, empowering marginalized communities, and digital security.
Under the patronage of the Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon Emmanuelle Lamoureux and British Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling, along with the presence of the Executive Director of the Samir Kassir Foundation Ayman Mhanna, the opening ceremony featured a panel discussion on the importance of media and digital literacy in advancing press freedoms and social justice.
“Digital literacy is extremely important at a time when we see oppressed freedoms,” Lamoureux said. “We as a country, Canada, believe that media expression is essential for the protection of democratic societies and the protection of human rights.”
Following Lamoureux, Rampling stressed on the importance of media literacy in not only protecting communities but also, in “flourishing societies.”
“It’s not only about understanding what we want to convey [to the audience] or what our audience needs but, more importantly how to produce news,” Rampling said.
Since 2013, MDLAB has annually convened lectures and workshops bringing together international experts, Arab academics, students, teachers, journalists, and activists to study media literacy, develop locally rooted curricula, and promote critical thinking and citizen media empowerment.
The academy envisions an Arab region of media literate individuals, engaged citizens, and empowered communities.
Since its launch, MDLAB has achieved significant milestones in realizing its vision.
“In 2009, only two universities in Lebanon used to offer courses on media literacy,” Melki said as he discussed how far the academy has come since it was first convened.
Today, more than 50 universities offer media literacy courses or incorporate media literacy modules into their curricula.
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