Media literacy board to advise citizens on fake news

Broadcasting Act amendments include media literacy board to strengthen citizens’ skills and knowledge on the effective use of media

Minister within the OPM, Carmelo Abela
Minister within the OPM, Carmelo Abela

The minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela has announced that a media literacy board will help citizens and children how to recognise if news is real or fake.

Abela, responsible for national broadcasting, said work is currently being done in order to appoint a media literacy board – a new concept aimed to strengthen citizens’ skills and knowledge to enable the more effective use of media, risk free. The measure emerges from a bill amending the Broadcasting Act which is awaiting approval by Parliament.

Abela was addressing an online seminar on teaching children on how to recognise if news is real or fake, organised by the Mater Boni Consilii St Joseph School in Paola and the Finnish NGO Faktabaar.

In his address, he appealed for students and journalists to actively dispel fake news while offering tips on mounting a fight against fake news whereby citizens make sure that they are “neither consumers nor producers” of misinformation. “This is of particular importance at a time when more than 4 billion people use social media, with an average of nearly 2 million new users joining every day,” Abela said.

A typical user now spends roughly 15% of their waking life using social platforms. Maltese children aged between 9 and 16 years of age spend over three hours online daily, according to the 2020 EU Kids Online research, coordinated by the University of Malta in collaboration with and the BeSmartOnline! Consortium.

With a representative sample of 1,234 Maltese boys and girls, the report also underlines how 17% of the participants use online sources to look for news.

“Considering how social media and other online sources have emerged as channels of media hype and fake news in recent years, it is only natural to assess our capabilities to critically distinguish between what is real and what is fake. Unfortunately, many of us tend not to look to the source of a story to verify its truth.

“Malta’s ambitions should not be limited only to the development of media literacy skills; we should also encourage our population to critically assess and question the news we read online.”