False reports circulate in Georgia, apparently fanning fears of the EU and Western European values. Various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have identified such examples and try to correct them with fact-checks. But it is much more effective to curb the spread of such false reports. This can be achieved with media literacy. Such knowledge is important as it helps to understand the work of journalists and the sources of information. However, the teaching of these competences in Georgia is currently often done on a voluntary basis.
The Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) actually teaches future journalists. The university has the aim to establish more media literacy in the population. That is why trainers go to schools in rural areas. There they explain how journalists work. Then the students produce their own multimedia stories. This theoretical and practical knowledge is the basis of media literacy. Tiko Tsomaia is a teacher at GIPA. Learning the right way to handle information is essential for her: "If you can not distinguish between the false and the truth, you are a looser. This is a sad thing.“ In her opinion media literacy should be part of every education. "Something very significant should be done in terms of media literacy“, Tiko Tsomaia said.
Media literacy for teachers
Media literacy is the ability to deal with all forms of communication. It enables people to be critical thinkers. This is especially important when handling disinformation. In Georgia NGOs focus on this topic. One of them is the Media Development Foundation (MDF), which is funded by various institutions. When it comes to media literacy, MDF focusses on young people and teacher education. That is why it offers for example courses at universities for future teachers. Media Literacy is becoming more and more trendy. All the steak-holders identified media literacy as the main tool to counter disinformation in the long term", Sopho Gelava, a trainer from MDF, explains. Like Tiko Tsomaia, she wishes to see more commitment from the government in this topic and is ready for more cooperation: "Ministry of education has an important role in promoting media literacy. Sometimes teachers do not have the motivation or time to come to additional training."
The government is working on the topic
But from the NGOs' point of view the efforts to persuade the government to become more involved in this area have not really done much in the past. So far, they have been waiting for more media literacy courses for teachers and students to be established. Marika Sikharulidze is working for the National Center for Teacher's professional development, an agency of the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for teacher education. She mentioned, that Standards for media literacy already have been developed and have been part of the curriculum since 2016. In order train teachers for the imparting of this competence, there are volunteer trainings for already existing teachers. Sikharulidze said „1.000 teachers of different subjects want to be trained with a digital citizenship education module in this year". In total, there are about 65,000 teachers in Georgia. But the government is planning to do even more, she continues: "Media literacy is a huge part of our activities next year. So this is not enough now. Maybe not enough for the next three years, but the process of media literacy in the fields of media literacy is about to start.”
Another national department studying this particular topic: The former First Deputy Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Nino Goguadze, has prepared a report on how disinformation can be tackled. Her advice to the government: "Education should provide media literacy", and NGOs should be more involved.
That is not enough commitment for the NGOs
"It’s a good start, but it's not enough!", says Mamuka Andguladze of Transparency International Georgia, another NGO. With this statement, he summarizes many opinions briefly. Many critics think that the governments’ reaction is “too little, too late”. That seems to be their prevailing opinion. A lot of NGOs hope that the promised plans will be implemented. The motivation behind it: "Our society wants to be more resistant to disinformation and fake news“,Sopho Gelava says, referring to more media literacy that is necessary.
Journalist at the public broadcasting service of Germany Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk MDR
Especially for Myth Detector
The article is published within the framework of the project #FIGHTFAKE, which is implemented by MDF in cooperation with its partner organisation Deutsche Gesellschaft e.V.