IREX Launches Balkans Regional Media Literacy Network
On April 13, IREX held a launch event for the new Balkans Regional Media Literacy Network (BMLN). The network will be a hub for experts, organizations, and programs across the region to collaborate, further media and information literacy efforts, and promote resilience to disinformation. Media literacy experts from Albania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro participated in the meeting to share their experiences and develop a common vision for the BMLN.
This regional coordination will serve to unite and improve individual country efforts to boost media literacy, as well as create a space to develop regional projects from the ground up. A multi-country initiative like the BMLN is well positioned to combat the increasing influence of harmful disinformation narratives that seek to divide.
The Balkans Regional Media Literacy Network is a natural continuation of IREX’s replication of L2D tools and concepts across the region thus far. For example, the Very Verified massive open online course on media literacy was initially developed by IREX Ukraine and successfully replicated in Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia.
After the launch event, IREX distributed a survey to all attendees to gauge levels of interest in and gather perspectives on the future of the Balkans Media Literacy Network. Participants were highly interested in investing in the network, and at least half of all respondents agreed that they would be available for monthly meetings and willing to contribute their expertise, resources, and time to coordination efforts.
A majority of the current BMLN members identified developing ideas for joint Balkans programs as their number one priority for the network. This was followed by staying informed about regional developments in media literacy, information-sharing and promoting innovative solutions to common challenges, conducting peer-learning events, and creating a bank of relevant examples for media literacy trainings. The network would also introduce regional experts to new perspectives, training models, program ideas, and target audiences.
Members also said that they would like the network to serve as a coordination hub for expertise, funding opportunities, resources, and media literacy activities. Some members of the network also suggested that the BMLN could support advocacy initiatives that aim to improve media literacy policies and increase government-funded media literacy programming in schools.
Notably, launch event participants shared that the network will be helpful in facilitating cooperation and combatting “us versus them” narratives and negative media portrayals of neighboring countries meant to divide.
The network’s founding members include representatives of local nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations, freelance media literacy experts, university professors, and media producers and professionals. L2D programs in the Balkans region previously worked with many of these experts to develop and adapt curricula, training materials, and online courses on media and information literacy for different audiences. At the event, each team of experts had the opportunity to present the goals and results of their media literacy efforts in their respective countries.