Digital age's opportunities and risks for democracy
    Caliber analyst at OSCE Vienna meeting/VIDEO

    POLITICS  29 May 2024 - 10:55

    Orkhan Amashov
    Caliber.Az

    On 27 May, Orkhan Amashov, Caliber Analyst, addressed the first session of the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting in Vienna, on the subject of media literacy and democracy, reflecting on some of the fundamental interlinkages between the two.

    "Madame Moderator and esteemed colleagues,

    It is a great honour and privilege to be part of this Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting.

    As we explore some of the fundamental interlinkages between media and democracy, we inevitably find ourselves in the presence of a very complex, intricate and perplexing and evolving media landscape.

    The contemporary digital age, bringing the inexorable rise of social media and other innovative new technologies as its essential concomitants, presents us with great, hitherto unprecedented opportunities and perilously grave risks. In this sense, however paradoxical it may sound, we are living in the best and worst of times simultaneously, akin to the wave pattern of an oscilloscope.

    The former is the case because the extent of access to a wide of range of information is far greater than ever before, with citizen empowerment having reached a new zenith: social media has given rise to one-man powerhouses - bloggers, for instance, exert considerable influence over public opinion, sometimes outmatching traditional media with greater financial resources.

    However, what is also true is that consumers now also may fall victim to novel and elaborately constructed manipulative technologies, with Artificial Intelligence inducing aggregated and falsified information bubbles, giving rise to further polarisation and erosion of social cohesion in societies.

    Media literacy is perhaps not a panacea to this perplexing dichotomy, but it holds some of the key answers. In this sense, this very concept should be viewed twofold.

    On one side, a regulatory atmosphere within which the media operate should be conducive to there being reliable and accurate sources of information, with pluralistic diversity observed and, on the other hand, the media literacy skills of those on the receiving end of this information should be enhanced, enabling them to distinguish fact from the deceitful simulacrae of what may be called truth, and increasing resilience to mis and disinformation.

    To put it in much-needed simple terms, both the source of the information and the recipient of the information should be media literate, with literacy evolving commensurately in both directions.

    Media literacy is key in the context of war and conflict, in particular, when long-overdue peace initiatives have just gained traction. It has often been the case that, at critical junctures, those desirous of deepening intra-state animosities utilise powerful fear-mongering techniques capitalising on the absence of sufficient media literacy.

    In the region where I emanate - the South Caucasus - we have regrettably witnessed some of these disturbing trends very recently.

    What could be done in a practical sense? Two areas appear to loom large.

    Media literacy education here is of great import, and it is not just about curricula at educational establishments, but also media literacy initiatives and platforms, and specifically tailored society groups. The Media Literacy Week held in Baku in December last year was a good step, but more is necessary on a macrocosmic scale.

    Secondly, the possibilities associated with modern fact-checking initiatives, built upon the time-honoured foundations of data-based journalism, in the shape of factlabs, are bound to be instrumental in countering dis and misinformation," Amashov said.

    Caliber.Az

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