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Panel discussion: How to inform and be informed?

In projects supported by the European Union about the development of critical thinking and media literacy, main efforts are aimed at young people and the way they perceive and use news and information, primarily from the Internet, as the dominant part of their media ecosystem.

- Democracy should allow deep disputes to be discussed publicly in a civilized manner. This means listening to different opinions, debating with one’s different opinion, recognizing disinformation, developing critical thinking and becoming media literate, said the Ambassador of the European Union, Samuel Žbogar, at the panel discussion held on 14 September 2018 (Friday) at the Center for Balkan Cooperation – LOJA in Tetovo, which also saw the presentation of EU projects in the country about the development of media literacy.

Žbogar added that this event is being held only days before the Media Days event, an annual media conference between the European Commission and the Western Balkans, which will be held for the first time in Skopje at the beginning of next week in the presence of European Commissioner for Enlargement, Johannes Hahn.

Minister of Education and Science, Arber Ademi, who paid special attention to youth and media literacy, also attended the panel discussion.

- Critical thinking is especially important for students to develop from the earliest of ages, because it is only this way they will grow as individuals and whole generations, who will be able to change the current state of play in all spheres of the society, that is, they will be able to participate or be direct creators of changes for a better future, Minister Ademi said.

Other speakers also paid special attention to youth and media literacy given the fact that it is popular opinion that it should be included in the educational process. By quoting public opinion surveys, Youth Educational Forum’s Dona Kosturanova said that 46% of the respondents think that youth are not on TV, and there is no content for them as well.

- Half of the audience thinks that youth are underreported and are not part of the TV programs. 14 percent of the youth have never read a newspaper, while one third has never been to the cinema, she highlighted and added that youth’s field is the Internet, which allows them to be independent from the traditional media.

During the panel discussion, Aleksandra Temenugova from the Institute of Communication Studies premiered the results of the latest nationwide survey that covered 1015 Macedonian citizens, according to which 59.3 percent of citizens say they receive information from TV, while 27.3 from the Internet. When it comes to the news they are interested into, 48.7 say politics, 39.1 entertainment, 34.1 economy and 23.6 sport. As expected, 51% of the respondents have Facebook profiles, which makes it the most popular social network. All of these numbers are in favor of the Internet when such questions are answered by youth, and the most suitable indicator to prove that is the fact that up to 83.1 percent of the youth access the Internet through their mobile phones.

In the efforts for spreading media literacy and critical thinking, Metamorphosis Foundation’s Filip Stojanovski said that one should always keep in mind the inclusiveness, i.e. the ethnic and linguistic diversity of citizens, noting that members of all ethnic groups are interested in this issue. He also quoted a public opinion survey from last year, conducted by the Foundation, which says that only 7-8% of citizens read newspapers, and only 9-10% listen to the radio, adding that the habit of reading is very important for acquiring skills which develops critical thinking.

When it comes to youth and the Internet, Stojanovski emphasized that we have to become familiar with the online world the youth exist in, so we can be able to find out the topics of their interest, and only then we can see how we can strengthen their critical thinking capacities.