6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media
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Republic of North Macedonia has no specific Strategy for Media literacy and safe use of new media at this time, but the topic of media literacy is covered within other strategies and laws.
The Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services is responsible for development and promotion of media literacy and safe use of new media. In that direction in 2015, the Agency developed a document Program for Promoting Media Literacy in the Republic of Macedonia 2016-2018. The document aimed to provide directions for the development and promotion of media literacy in the Republic of North Macedonia. In March 2019 the Agency published the Media Literacy Policy. The scope of this document is to illustrate the way forward, after expiring of the abovementioned program. The policy document defines, in particular, the following: The main objectives that should be obtained in the field of media literacy in North Macedonia, by the Agency and other stakeholders; The key domains of primary interest, where efforts would mostly help to achieve those objectives; The media and information literacy competences to be developed in different groups of the society.
Media literacy entered media policy during the process of harmonization of media-related laws with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (Закон за аудио и аудиовизуелни медиумски услуги), which entered into force in early 2014, vested the Agency with a direct obligation to promote media literacy, cooperating with all the relevant stakeholders, and to report on its activities in the annual work reports it submits to the Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia (Article 26).
The Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services first tackled the issue of media literacy while working on the previous Strategy for the Development of Broadcasting Activity, 2013-2017 (Стратегија за развој на радиодифузната дејност во Република Македонија 2013-2017). The Strategy contains a short assessment of scarce evidence of the characteristics of the context for media literacy development in the Republic of North Macedonia. Namely, until that moment, the most active factor was civil society as most of the projects were conducted by citizen organizations and referred to the fields of education and safe usage of the Internet and the social networks.
In March 2019 The Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services adopted the new Regulatory Strategy for the Development of Audio and Audiovisual Media Activity 2019-2023 (Регулаторна стратегија за развој на аудио и аудиовизуелната медиумска дејност 2019-2023). The Strategy covers several areas, including media literacy. Regarding the media literacy, the Strategy foreseen following activities and recommendations: “1. In 2019, the Agency will develop a policy document to encourage the development of media literacy in the Republic of Macedonia; 2. Activities to strengthen the Media Literacy Network will continue; 3. The Agency will continue to undertake activities to raise awareness of media literacy among different target groups, as well as to raise the level of professionalism among media workers, in coordination with other members of the network.”
The Report for the work of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services for 2017 stipulates that the Agency, in order to encourage media literacy in the country, realized a number of activities such as: initiating the establishment of a Media Literacy Network of the Republic of North Macedonia, which has 35 founding members ministries, state institutions, higher education institutions, civic associations and organizations); together with some of the members of the Network, prepared educational material on media literacy for primary schools in the country; finalized the development of a separate web page dedicated solely to media literacy; print a leaflet which explicitly explains the basic principles of media literacy; adapted and promoted a video clip from EAVI for raising awareness about media literacy, and more.
The Media Literacy Network of the Republic of North Macedonia was established on the initiative of the Agency launched in early 2017 and was launched on April 27, 2017. The goal of establishing the Network was to facilitate the communication and consultation between the various subjects in the country working on raising the level of media literacy in both children and adults. It has 35 founding members, including two ministries: Ministry of Education and Science and Ministry of Labor and Social Policy; and from the state institutions, besides the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, founders are also the Directorate for Personal Data Protection and the Agency for Film. There are also two private higher education institutions - the School of Journalism and Public Relations and the Institute of Communication Studies. The most numerous are the civil associations and organizations - there are 18, and ten media are also founders of the Network. The network remains open for new members, and everyone can access it by accepting the Act on Establishment and completing the Registration Form.
In December 2017, within the activities of the Media Literacy Program, the Agency finalized the development of a special web site dedicated exclusively for media literacy https://mediumskapismenost.mk/home/ where research, analyzes, information on conferences, projects, videos and other materials are published . The creation, maintenance and administration of the website is financed by the Agency, and it is common to the regulator and members of the Media Literacy Network. The website operates in Macedonian, Albanian and English and is available for people with daltonism and weakness. It is a great opportunity for the concept of "media literacy" to reach all parts of the Macedonian society, but also to introduce the world to the Macedonian activities in the field of media literacy.
In the working program of the Agency for 2021 (Програма за работа за 2021 година), given that in 2021 parliamentary elections were held, and given the competence of the Agency to monitor the media coverage of the elections, The Agency's priority activity in the second half of the year was program monitoring broadcaster and media coverage services.
Тhe priority of the Agency for 2022 (Програма за работа за 2022 година), will be monitoring the fulfillment of the program obligations of the broadcasters, as well as the other obligations set out for them in the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, the Law on Media and in the bylaws arising from these two laws. In addition, the Agency will undertake activities aimed at protecting the pluralism of the property of broadcasters, promoting social inclusion and media literacy, promoting freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
In order to protect the pluralism of media ownership, as well as to encourage the application of new technologies, the Agency in 2020 prepared a study on the pluralism of the media ownership in the new media environment, and will begin by undertaking activities to develop а study for determining the possibilities for introduction of digital radio and for preparation of analysis for the possibilities and the need to introduce DVBT-T2.
 Regulatory Strategy for the Development of Audio and Audiovisual Media Activity 2019-2023, Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, (March, 2019), p.61-62 https://avmu.mk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/%D0%A0%D0%B5%D0%B3%D1%83%D0%BB%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B0-%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%B3%D0%B8%D1%98%D0%B0-%D0%B7%D0%B0-%D0%BF%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%BE%D1%82-%D0%BE%D0%B4-2019-%D0%B4%D0%BE-2023-%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0.pdf
 Report on the work of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services for 2017, Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, (March, 2018) p.6 https://avmu.mk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/%D0%93%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B8%D1%88%D0%B5%D0%BD-%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%88%D1%82%D0%B0%D1%98-%D0%B7%D0%B0-%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B1%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B0-%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%90%D0%92%D0%9C%D0%A3-%D0%B7%D0%B0-2017-%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0.pdf
In North Macedonia, as indicated in the Broadcasting Strategy 2013-2017, there have been efforts to introduce media literacy in the mother tongue curriculum, but have not been implemented. In 2010, the Macedonian Institute for Media in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy and the Bureau for Development of Education developed a Handbook on the Study of Media Literacy in the Teaching of Mother Tongue (Прирачник за наставници за изучување на медиумската писменост во наставата по мајчин јазик – за основно и средно образование). Trainings of more than 1,000 teachers were conducted but - the project stopped in the final phase - before the competent institutions approved its use in schools. After twelve years of this project, media literacy continues to be under-represented in education.
In Republic of North Macedonia there is no single document, law, strategy, program for development of education, in which media literacy is incorporated, in spite of the numerous reforms in the curricula and subjects and in their content, both in primary and secondary education. Even in the relatively new Education Strategy 2018-2025, Media Literacy as a term has not been mentioned at all. Yet, one of the focuses of the Strategy is development of generic and core competencies of pupils (and all learners), in order for them to develop into critical thinkers, active and relevant participants in social life.
There is no separate study program for media literacy that is taught in schools, but certain segments of the media (their characteristics, differences between false and real news, as well as education for recognizing information sources and assessing their quality) are present in the curriculum on the subject Civic Education in Primary and Secondary Education. But the total fund of classes where these topics are discussed is almost negligible, which makes it difficult to talk about the acquisition of comprehensive knowledge in this field.
 Regulatory Strategy for the Development of Audio and Audiovisual Media Activity 2019-2023, Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, (March, 2019), p.61 https://avmu.mk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/%D0%A0%D0%B5%D0%B3%D1%83%D0%BB%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B0-%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%B3%D0%B8%D1%98%D0%B0-%D0%B7%D0%B0-%D0%BF%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%BE%D1%82-%D0%BE%D0%B4-2019-%D0%B4%D0%BE-2023-%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0.pdf
The CSO sector in North Macedonia is much more active in the area of media literacy. A number of researches have been conducted by citizen’s organizations concerning media literacy.
The civic organizations have the largest role in promoting media literacy in North Macedonia through non-formal education. There are many trainings and seminars where young people through different non-formal educational methods (scenarios, role playing games, workshops) can learn and become aware for the wide sea of false information present around us.
In December 2017, National Youth Council of Macedonia in cooperation with Radio MOF, organized a series of free trainings with young people between the ages of 15 and 25 (from Skopje, Veles and Tetovo) in order to learn how to recognize the false news, the manipulative content in the media, and the propaganda techniques through theoretical and practical work. The project was implemented with the help of a grant awarded through the project "Media Literacy in an Information Dive: Media Literacy Coalition" conducted by the School of Journalism and Public Relations, in collaboration with the Institute for Media Diversity in London and the newspaper "Nova Makedonija" with financial support from the European Union.
The School of Journalism and Public Relations in the period 2016-2018 worked on the project "Media Literacy in an Era of Information Flow: Macedonian Coalition for Media and Information Literacy" in order to raise public awareness of the impact of media content, but and encourage citizens to acquire the knowledge and skills to critically perceive information and use the media as a prerequisite for active citizenship. The project was funded by the European Union and it resulted with publication Media Literacy Handbook for Youth, Media and Civil Society Organizations (Прирачник за медиумска писменост за млади, за медиуми и за граѓански организации). The purpose of the Handbook is to empower students, teachers and professors, civic activists and the media to think critically about the world that surrounds us, to help them navigate the sea of information more easily, and to teach them how to create more effectively and responsibly media content.
Metamorphosis Foundation and Eurotink - Center for European Strategies with the financial support of the European Union through the IPA Civil Society and Media Program implemented the project "Critical Thinking for Citizens with Media Skills - Critink". The aim of the project is to promote media literacy as a basis for safeguarding the right of citizens to have different opinions, by stimulating a culture of critical thinking, pluralism of opinions and democratic values. The overall goals: Promoting a culture of critical thinking by educating the general public about the detrimental effects of media manipulation on democracy and European values; Increasing the capacity of CSOs and the media to address media manipulation (including hate speech) by improving the levels of media literacy through joint engagement with state institutions; Increasing the civic demand for accountable media through public education, promoting professional standards and international practices that protect freedom of opinion and expression. The project started in January 2018 and ended in December 2020.
As above mentioned, in the recent years CSO’s and Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services through Media Literacy Network, are trying to improve the situation and contribute to medially-conscious youth who will critically evaluate the information. Occasionally there are trainings and conferences aiming to raise awareness about the risk posed by new media, targeting mostly youth, but also educational workers, journalists and general public. In July 2019, The Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the OSCE Mission to Skopje on the basis of which joint activities will be taken up towards raising the awareness about media literacy in the country. The cooperation involves conducting of a research into the level of media literacy among the adult population in the Republic of North Macedonia and a media campaign, which will be carried out with the support from the OSCE Mission to Skopje.
But still, media literacy is not a common topic in public discourse in North Macedonia, and young generations do not know how to check and verify information that is shared daily by mass media. That this is so, is confirmed by the media literacy index published in March 2021, where North Macedonia is at the last, 35th place.