Media literacy in Montenegro is not at a satisfactory level, although some progress has been made and it is necessary that all stakeholders, especially the state, show a clear will when it comes to its promotion. This was announced at the conference “Improving Media Literacy in Montenegro” within the project of the same name, implemented by the Agency MINA and the non-governmental organization (NGO) Juventas, which was financially supported by the US Embassy in Podgorica.
Executive Director of the MINA Agency, Jasa Jovicic, said that, despite the fact that tabloids were never lastingly established in the Montenegrin society, it must be stated that we are exposed daily to a huge amount of content and that the need for media literacy is something that becomes a social imperative.
“This is not only a fight for better and more professional media, but it is a fight for the advancement of each individual and for creating his or her ability to deal better with social and political life. This is exactly the core idea of this project,”Jovicic explained. He said that more than 30 schools, with over 600 high school students attended the workshops.
State Secretary of the Ministry of Education of Montenegro, Aleksandar Mitrovic, explained that media literacy in the 21st century has taken on a whole new meaning in terms of the amount of information that is obtained, but also its quality.
“Due to the amount of information, the large number of media outlets and the emergence of social networks, where there are almost no content filters, we have a whole new picture of information flow and communication,” Mitrovic said.
Such an image, he added, has advantages and disadvantages. “The benefits are that information is easily and quickly clickable, but when it comes to the disadvantages of social networks, information is obtained without a broader journalistic context, which is extremely educational for all of us, especially young people,” Mitrovic said. Media literacy, he said, is an elective program in the Secondary and Third Grade High School, two hours a week, Mitrovic said.
The US Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Montenegro, Judy Kuo, said that promoting and developing media literacy among young people is one of the best ways to tackle the modern challenges of the information age.
“Young people and the general public today are quite talkative and subject to misinformation and various forms of manipulation. She believes that efforts should be made to make Montenegro a country that requires high quality journalism. “This is the right way for you to create future generations that are capable of securing the future of journalism in Montenegro,” Kuo said.
The executive director of Juventas NGO, Ivana Vujovic, said that the society is not immune and that it should fear the occurrence of collective blackout, which can be produced by a controlled media scene.
“We need a more serious approach to regulating media content, which is not limited to individual interests. The manner of election of the members of the Radio Television of Montenegro (RTCG) Council and the Council of the Electronic Media Agency (AEM) has obviously been compromised and appeals, tips, calls have been sent from many addresses, to make an emergency change,” Vujovic said.
The media, she said, have a tremendous impact on everyone, which is why it is important to constantly develop and improve media literacy skills – from access, through analysis and evaluation, to the creation of media content. “With the help of media literacy, we can avoid prejudice, but also recognize hate speech, propaganda and spin, as well as covert advertising, attention-grabbing and persuasion techniques.” Vujovic assessed that media literacy in Montenegro was not satisfactory.
“When it comes to the education system, in the ten years since it was introduced into the curriculum, only about 800 students have studied this elective. Although elementary and high school students learn about the media in other subjects as well, we are witnessing that the education system is not able to keep up with the intense and rapid changes in the media world,” Vujovic said.
The project coordinator at the Juventas NGO, Mican Andrijasevic, explained that the survey was conducted on a sample of 995 respondents, by telephone, and carried out by the Monitoring and Research Center (CeMI) should show a general picture of media literacy in Montenegro. He said that 38.3 percent of the respondents believe that Montenegrin media provide reliable and accurate information, and 37.9 percent partially agree.
“You have almost half of the respondents who believe that the Montenegrin media report differently on the same topics. This is a very worrying piece of information. Half of the respondents are not sure what to believe. Because if you have the media reporting differently about the same events then the question is where is the truth? “
He stated that 39.3 percent of the respondents believe that the Montenegrin media do not freely inform, that is, they are subject to political or economic influences. A large percentage of citizens believe that, as he said, the Montenegrin media distort the facts, that is, take them out of context. However, what he is looking forward to, he said, is that 43.7 percent of the respondents trust the Montenegrin media.
“Another online survey was conducted among the high school population. Almost all high school students use the Internet and social networks. What is encouraging is that they are aware that this information is wholly or largely unreliable.” It is very important, as he believes, to work on youth education through formal and informal education, said Andrijasevic.
President of the Citizens’ Association “Why Not,” Darko Brkan, said that 90 percent of media content was transmitted online.
“It’s hard to do everything in the sea of information. The newsrooms themselves need to have a way of fact-checking themselves. It is important for the newsrooms to introduce at least individuals who would be solely concerned with fact-checking and who would be responsible for the credibility of the content,”Brkan said.
He explained that 90 percent of the cases were “investigations” that took a few minutes or half an hour.
“Why not do that at least. In some matters, serious work is needed, but in general I think that we, along with newsrooms, can contribute to this, at least in that part concerning better image of the media in public. In many cases it is not a problem of readiness, but a problem of resources.” He said that misinformation is easier to spread than news, because “the point of misinformation is to reach out to as large an audience as possible and then misinformation tends to spread regionally,” Brkan said.