Every child a reporter: Journalists call on EU in fight against disinformation
Brussels, January 2021 – Every schoolchild in Europe must become a news reporter if the EU is to defeat online disinformation– and governments need to help make it happen, say journalists in an open letter to the EU.
Journalists in Germany, Austria and Belgium who have visited school classrooms across Europe to warn pupils about online disinformation amid threats to democracy, say their approach has been vindicated by the EU’s recently-published plans to safeguard democracy. And they urge EU institutions and governments to make urgent progress on these plans.
The European Democracy Action Plan pledges among other things to “support the involvement of journalists in media literacy activities, in particular through back-to-school initiatives.” This, the draft says, must allow journalists to discuss their work and the role of media with school pupils, strengthening critical media literacy as an essential tool in the fight against online falsehoods.
“This timely recognition of our approach is terrific news for those of us who have been working in schools for years,” the 77 signatories say. They are journalists from radio, TV, magazines and newspapers.
“Every time we enter a classroom – whether in person or virtually during the pandemic – we see our presence igniting the critical minds of children and teachers. We encourage independent journalists across Europe to join our efforts,” they add.
But time is short, they warn. EU authorities and governments must make good on plans unveiled late last year to enable the public to resist polarisation, and to stem financial incentives driving corrosive online disinformation in the face of opposition from vested interests.
“We need national governments to back the EU in the face of strong opposition and influence-buying from vested interests. Together you must act fast to take on the outrage industry and foster public resilience,” the journalists say.
To empower citizens, “European governments should make critical media literacy a permanent part of the school curriculum and of all teacher training.”
“Journalists have an immediate role in advancing media literacy as the world grapples with the transformation to the digital information universe. Eventually, every teacher – regardless of the subject they teach – must be able to integrate this new online literacy into their daily classroom work. Until then we are eager to accompany them. We need you to do your part.”
As part of 200 journalist volunteers for media literacy campaign Lie Detectors, the signatories visit classrooms either by video or in person and run training courses for pupils in using reporting techniques to expose media fakes and bias, and to understand how journalism works. Lie Detectors has won awards for its work and advises governments on creating public resilience to disinformation and on taking on the drivers of disinformation. Over the last year, the organisation has sought to combat the many myths about the Covid pandemic that are propagated online.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact the signatories or Lie Detectors at firstname.lastname@example.org