Workshop material


Building MIL capacity for membership-based, youth-led organisations in Nigeria

Workshop Material

Section 1: Media and Information Literacy (MIL): An Introduction

Section 2: Media Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue

Section 3: Evaluating and Using Information and Media Content

Section 4: Representations of Gender in the Media, Books, on the Internet and in History

Section 5: Engaging with Media and Using New Technology and Information for Social Action

Section 1

Media and Information Literacy (MIL): An Introduction


Communication has always been central to human existence. In prehistoric times, people spoke by imitating birdsong, scratched information on walls, horns, stones, and shells, and sent messages by beating on drums, bells and gongs. As time went by, humans developed sophisticated oral communication through speech, song, oratory, and verse. Writing implements and symbolic systems became more complex, resulting in manuscript and print cultures.

Transmission technologies like the telegraph, telephone, underwater cable, radio, and satellite, and the internet whisked messages around the world in record time. The image technologies of the camera, film and television added a vibrant, visual component to human communication. Most recently digital and nano-technologies have delivered previously unimagined communication tools into the hands of everyone, even small children.

Most of these technological advances have occurred within the last century, indeed many within the last twenty years. The changes in information and communication technologies (ICT) have been so fast and unevenly distributed that some people are faced with more and more information every day, while others are still starved for information. Yet, the societies in which we live today are driven by information and knowledge.

Those who have access to media and ICTs cannot escape the role they play in our personal, economic, political and social lives. Together, the number of television and radio stations, newspapers and magazines, mobile phones, internet sites and social networks, books, libraries, archives, billboards, and video games determine much of what we learn about ourselves and the world around us.

Media and other information providers are central to democracy, cultural dialogue and good governance, both as a way to promote democratic debates and diversity and as providers of information and knowledge. However, information providers such as public broadcasters, libraries and archives often suffer from controls and limitations placed on them by government. Mass media and other information providers are often commercialized and can contribute to stereotypes, discrimination, misinformation, and exclusion of certain social groups and opinions from public debate.

If the media are to support democracy, citizens need to understand how to use them critically: that is, how to interpret the information they receive – including the media’s use of metaphor and irony. Media consumers need to understand how stories and events are framed to suggest certain meanings. As citizens, people need specific competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) to engage with the media. The ultimate goal is for citizens to be active participants in political processes and governance, in large part by making effective use of the resources provided by media, libraries, archives and other information providers.

Media and Information Literacy (MIL) offers the necessary set of competencies for citizens to negotiate the complex web of media messages and information sources now available to them.
This workshop is built on three pillars: critical thinking, self-expression and participation. It is divided into six (6) sections. Section one (1) will consider the relatively new concept of MIL, asking such questions as these:
*What is information? *What are the media? *Why learn about them? *What is their importance?  *What is media literacy?  *What is information literacy? *What is media and information literacy?

Media literacy (ML) and information literacy (IL) are part of one another. They have differences and similarities, but they overlap in many areas. Together, they include all the skills, knowledge and abilities that we think of when we think of library literacy, news literacy, digital literacy, computer literacy, Internet literacy, freedom of expression and freedom of information literacy, television literacy, advertising literacy, cinema literacy, and games literacy.
You are not required to memorize definitions. However, it is crucial that you understand what media and information literate people should know (knowledge) and be able to do (skills) as well as the attitude they should have towards information, media and technology. The list below summarizes the competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) of media and information literacy.

Media and information literate people should be able to:

a) Understand why media and other information providers are important to  development and democratic societies;
b) Know what media and other information providers should do to support development and democracy;
c) Recognise a need for information;
d) Locate and access information needed;
e) Carefully evaluate or judge information and the content of media and other information providers;
f) Organise information;
g) Use and share information based on moral principles or accepted standards of social behaviour;
h) Use information and communication technology skills to access, produce and share information and media content;
i) Interact with media and other information providers to freely express themselves, share their culture and learn about other cultures, and participate in democratic and development activities.

We hope that you will have acquired these by the end of the workshop.

Section 2

Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue


Each day we are surrounded by more and more information and messages from media and other information providers, including those on the Internet. Information and messages are often about the cultures we grow up in or about the cultures of people from other countries and regions of the world.

They come to us through television, radio, the internet, books, libraries and archives, newspapers, magazines, mobile devices, billboards, and so on. Each of these means of transmitting information and media content can influence the ways we think, act and believe. But not many of us understand the importance of media and information providers, including those on the Internet, to our daily lives and developing knowledge of how to examine the messages and information they disseminate in order to decide whether they are truthful or fair.

Many persons still do not know or understand that many of the challenges (such as cultural and religious conflicts) that we face can be overcome by accessing and using the right information; or that we miss many opportunities because of the absence or misuse of information. This is what courses in media and information literacy are meant to do: give people the knowledge and intellectual tools they need in order to make informed choices and participate actively in society.

The media and other information providers do not exist by themselves. Our cultural environments influence media content. In turn, media content influences our cultural environments. It is a complex circular process of interacting elements that each citizen must learn to understand and employ. In today’s media environment, it isn’t enough to understand our own culture; we must also learn to appreciate the viewpoints of other cultures so that we can work together to build strong communities and address mutual issues. Learning to understand, appreciate, and accept all forms of cultural diversity is a necessity for maintaining healthy democracies, promoting and enjoying freedom of expression, practising social justice, establishing peaceful communities, and ensuring intercultural cooperation.

Five Key Concepts for Analyzing Media Messages Online and Offline

  1. Media and information content is carefully planned
  2. Media and other information providers often highlight different aspects of reality
  3. Each form of media constructs messages according to a unique set of rules
  4. All media are driven by economic, social and political factors
  5. Audiences interpret meaning in the media based on their educational and personal experience
  1. Media and information content is carefully planned

Nothing in the media is there by accident. All that you see, read and hear has been carefully planned and put together by teams of people who have used some information, and rejected other information, and invented or adapted information to suit their purposes. One obvious reason for this is that, faced with a limited amount of time and space to present information, media and information professionals cannot show, say or write everything about an event, situation, person, place or thing.

However, in some cases information is adapted or even invented to suit the intended purposes of those involved in information and media production. In other cases, individuals and media professionals alike unconsciously omit important pieces of information due to ignorance. For instance a reporter or writer may not be aware of gender bias in certain statements because of a lack of training. The same holds true in any situation where people tell stories. What they say, write, or present has been assembled from all the possible things that could be said or written in order to entertain, inform or persuade the audience.

It is important to note the differences between fictional movies (not factual), and commercials (intended to persuade and not always factual) and the news (intended to be factual or opinionated.) The challenge for the viewer is to make the distinction between the fact, opinion and misinformation). You will learn more about these throughout this course.

  1. Media and other information providers often highlight different aspects of reality.

Most of the information we have about the world is delivered to us by the media. These constructions of reality contain attitudes, values, interpretations and conclusions. Much of this information is so skillfully packaged that it persuades us to agree with a certain point of view. But does this version of reality reflect your own views?

  1. Each form of media constructs messages according to a unique set of rules

Whether you are reading print or looking at a photo or a video, everything in the media has been constructed according to a set of rules so that it will be more persuasive.

Here are commonly used rules for:

  1. Newspaper and television articles and features
  2. Front pages of newspapers
  3. Images (posters, billboards, photos)
  4. Persuasive texts (editorials, opinion pieces)

Newspaper and Television Articles and Features

Traditionally, print journalists have used the inverted pyramid for structuring their stories, placing the most necessary information about who, what, when, where, why and how in the first paragraph; an expansion of each of these components – one per paragraph – in the middle of the piece; and other information or background at the end. Stories are constructed this way so that they can be cut from the bottom up if space is an issue. In addition, with one topic per paragraph, it is easier for the editor to cut specific paragraphs for space or re-order them for better effect.

This structure has been adopted for television news and features as well, with the most interesting or startling information first, some expansion of important details, supporting information or opinions from experts, and a closing that includes a summary reference to the event or person featured. On television, such stories are frequently closed with a promise to follow up with further coverage.

Front Pages of Newspapers

The placement of images and text, the size and kind of font or colour, the amount of whitespace: all of these are important components in the construction of the front page of a newspaper. Print newspaper editors choose what they consider to be the most important or eye-catching stories for the space “above the fold” – the part of the newspaper that is displayed in the news vendor’s stand. This is also a preferred location for advertisers, since it is the part of the newspaper that everyone sees. Online newspapers use a similar tactic called “above the scroll.” This is the part of the newspaper that is visible without scrolling.

Images (posters, photos, billboards)

A good image tells a story. But how does it do that? The use of light can create mood; the use of colour can emphasize or de-emphasize importance.

One of the basic rules for the composition of images is the “Rule of Thirds,” which says that the most appealing images can be divided on imaginary lines into three equal vertical and horizontal segments. This geometric approach to aligning the elements of photos, paintings, posters and billboards for a pleasant effect has not only an aesthetic appeal, but has been used by advertisers and other media for over a century to draw the viewer’s eye to important details of the image. The photographer uses the Rule of Thirds to place important components along the lines, rather than in the middle of one of the nine sections. The most important components are placed near one of the four intersections of the lines. In other words, the Rule of Thirds can be used to persuade the viewer.

Persuasive Arguments (editorials, opinion pieces, speeches)

Persuasive arguments have three component parts, located at the beginning, middle and end; each of these positions has its own level of persuasive power. The most powerful position in any text is at the end – the final thing the reader or viewer reads or sees. Nearly as powerful is the first thing the reader or viewer finds at the beginning.  Anything placed in the middle has less power to persuade. For this reason the middle is used for description, examples, and elaboration.

Persuasive arguments can be constructed as direct or indirect:

Direct Arguments: The direct approach is taken when the author feels the argument to be very powerful. It will therefore place the strongest argument first, often dismissing the opposing point of view at the same time. The main argument is often followed by some background or context, and then the two or three next most powerful arguments accompanied by examples or illustrations, and finally by a return to the strongest point in the argument at the conclusion. This approach assumes that the argument is so powerful that it can introduce opposing points of view at the beginning and dismiss them right away.

Indirect Arguments: The indirect approach is taken when the author feels the argument to be weak or likely to encounter strong opposition. It therefore starts in an indirect way with background, and extended case history, or a joke followed by the main argument, then a slow build-up of support for the main argument. This approach to persuasion will insert the opposing point of view about two-thirds of the way through the text in the least powerful position. This will be followed almost immediately by restating the author’s most powerful argument in the conclusion.

  1. All media are driven by economic, social and political factors

Most media production is a business and therefore needs to make a profit. Ownership and control can be an issue, considering that a small number of companies control what we watch, see and hear. One way in which for-profit companies try to control media content is called gatekeeping.

Media that is not commercial may be owned or controlled by governments, churches, or not-for-profit organizations. But, even here, the audience must be aware of bias in the media, or the social and political factors that affect media production. The representation of gender, ethnicity, human rights, famine, and political events are just some of the areas where the point of view of the media can introduce bias. Attempts to control what the public finds in the media can involve censorship and the use of propaganda.

Information creation is also of relevance here. Information creation through formal research studies is done either for the researcher’s personal interest, study or professional requirements, or for payment to support development purposes or commercial interests.

An important driving factor in many media formats today is sexism and the resulting representation of women and girls. And excellent resource for examining the stereotyping of women in the media can be found in the online resource Mediasmarts, which also offers resources for parents and teachers.

  1. Audiences interpret meaning in the media based on their education and personal experiences.

Our personal experiences, when combined with our knowledge of media and information literacy, can contribute to or influence how we understand and interpret information and media content. Our beliefs, background, and experiences often directly affect how we apply our MIL competencies. What we know and have experienced can also affect how we interpret knowledge about how the media operate, about the information life cycle, and about the very meaning of information. It is therefore possible for different people to come up with different meanings or messages from the same piece of information, or media content. In fact, people can come up with messages or meanings not intended by the producer or author of the information in the first place.

Knowing how important individual experience and practice can be makes it all the more important that we ask of all media messages: who produced this message, why, when, how, for whom and with what intended effect?

Enabling Meaningful Intercultural Dialogue

Every culture has its own distinguishing features that are defined by its social, political and economic history, its mix of religious beliefs, and its geography. Some cultures have a history of ethnic diversity and so they have mechanisms for understanding and accepting other points of view and ways of being. But not every culture, or person within a culture, has the means to communicate meaningfully across traditional boundaries of race, class, ethnicity and gender. Even so, new ways of crossing these boundaries can be learned by anyone with a will to do so.

Holding meaningful conversations with people from other cultures can be a challenge. Here are six things to remember in order to make sure that people speak and listen to one another with respect and understanding.

    1. Distinguish fact from opinion
    2. Be aware of distinguishing features of your own and other cultures
    3. Recognize and reject cultural, religious and gender stereotyping
    4. Maintain equal dignity for all participants
    5. Recognize and respect cultural differences and similarities
    6. Make a personal commitment to being open, curious and accepting
  • Distinguish fact from opinion

Journalists, writers and other information providers, including those on the Internet, can create cultural misunderstandings, so it is important to be able to interpret what you find in the media. Information media content is a blend of fact and opinion. Sometimes media producers will indicate to the audience when opinion dominates (e.g. in editorials, editorial cartoons, and blogs) as opposed to fact (e.g. science columns, or business news). Factual coverage of the news or accounts of history will be more likely to use objective language, names, dates, places, or numbers that the audience can easily cross-check with other news sources for factual accuracy. Opinion pieces are more likely to use emotional language, testimonials, life stories, and emotive imagery in order to persuade an audience that the opinions of the writer are valid.

  • Be aware of distinguishing features of your own and other cultures

Cultures differ in many ways such as religion and language; holidays; attitudes towards schooling; attitudes towards alcohol, smoking and other drugs; food and dress; gender roles; and generational roles. How do you see your own culture? How do others see your culture? Proud? Friendly? Tolerant? Fair? Misunderstood? Militaristic? Poor? Diverse? Educated? Modern? Old-Fashioned? Rich?

  • Recognize and reject cultural, religious and gender stereotyping

Stereotyping is a means of labelling, or identifying an individual or a group with a single or limited number of traits, which may or may not reflect reality. It is often associated with prejudice and discrimination. What stereotyping does is to shut down thought and perpetuate ignorance. One way to reject stereotyping is to create an alternative set of statements that recognize individuality and complexity, statements that open out instead of closing down.

  • Maintain equal dignity for all participants

Open and respectful dialogue helps to maintain the dignity of participants.

  • Recognize and respect cultural differences and similarities

The more practice you have in recognizing cultural differences and similarities, the more open and accepting you will be in speaking with people from other cultures, genders, ages, and races.

  • Make a personal commitment to being open, curious and accepting

Understanding why intercultural dialogue is important should lead you to finding ways to be open, curious and accepting of other people and other cultures.

Section 3

Media and Information Literacy:

Evaluating and Using Information and Media Content



As you saw in Section 1, Media and Information Literacy is made up of two parts: media literacy and information literacy. Some organizations focus on the first kind of literacy and others focus on the second kind. However, you have seen from previous units and will see in the rest of the units that media literacy, information literacy, and digital literacy are closely related. For some practitioners, media literacy is a part of information literacy and for others it is the reverse. This course combines both as media and information literacy.

Here is one popular definition of information literacy:

“Information literacy is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.”

(Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals)

What is Information Literacy? – the ability to find, evaluate, use and create information and knowledge. Access to information forms the basis of lifelong learning and is so important in the digital world for helping people to achieve their social, educational and career goals that it is related to basic human rights.

If you recall from Section 1, this definition of information literacy is sometimes used for media literacy as well.

We are told that we live in an information age, that we are experiencing an information revolution and that we must be information literate to succeed in an information society, or a knowledge-based economy. We hear that information is power, that knowledge is power and that some people are information rich, while others are information poor. We can store vast amounts of information on small devices and access information from anywhere, any time.

There is no doubt that information has become a powerful term that is linked to citizens’ access to information and freedom of expression. Information is also linked to global cooperation among nations, to our quality of life and our ability to solve economic and social problems.

The question is how we become knowledgeable citizens who effectively use information that is provided to us by the print and broadcast media, the Internet, libraries and other sources and how we become knowledgeable researchers in finding and producing the information that is important to us.

This section will provide you with the means to evaluate and how to use the information that you find in libraries, in publications, in the media and on the internet.

Section 4

Representations of Gender in the Media, Books, on the Internet and in History


Despite the efforts of many people around the world in the years since the introduction of the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” in 1948, half the human race – girls and women – struggle every day for freedom of movement, thought, and speech; access to quality education; personal security; and their right to participate fully in social and political life.
Since the beginning of the 1900s there have been three waves of thinking about women’s empowerment. The first wave was the demand for the right to vote, which women began to gain in the early twentieth century. The second wave grew in the 1960s; it was concerned with broader issues that restricted women’s freedoms. These included concerns over the images of women in advertising and media, equal pay for equal work, and limited career opportunities. The third wave looked more deeply into the question of gender roles for all people and how these roles perpetuate inequality and limit individual choice and expression.

The media are important transmitters for the values, attitudes and beliefs in society. They reflect and reinforce ideas and opinions for most people around the world. Unfortunately most of the media workforce is male, including the people who make the decisions. This inequity means that women’s issues and perspectives are not included to the extent they should be in the media; and when women’s issues are included, they often suffer from a male bias.

The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), the largest international source of information about women and media, tells us that, in traditional media in 2010, only 24% of news subjects were women, only 37% of reporters were female, and only 13% of all news stories focused on women. On the Internet, 23% of news subjects were female, although 36% of stories were written by women. Gender stereotypes were reinforced in 42% of the stories. Male reporters addressed the full range of subjects, while female reporters tended to address subjects about women. Women being interviewed by the media were seldom chosen as professionals, but were interviewed, as members of the general public. Men tended to be interviewed as experts.

One of the best ways to rectify this situation is to give more women the education they need in order to work in the media. If media are to fulfill their historical function in democratic societies, they must reflect the diversity of the population they serve, which includes language, religion, race, ethnicity, and gender. Journalists have a crucial role to play in stimulating public discussion on issues of gender equality and gender-based stereotypes. And citizens have a responsibility to make sure that the media do this ethically and with sensitivity.

  • Representation and Stereotyping of Women
  • Implications of Gender Inequity for Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information
  • Media’s Role in Promoting Diversity
  • Watching the Media Watchdog

Section 5

Engaging with Media and Using New Technology and Information for Social Action


Increasingly citizens are using their media and information literacy skills to provide alternative views to the content of mainstream and online media. Such user-generated content increases the diversity of voices and opens the door to a variety of perspectives. Often individuals and interest groups work outside of traditional media, but more and more broadcasters now work with citizens and their communities to include such user-generated content as radio programs, photographs and videos, news stories, letters to the editor, online blogs and posts, and digital storytelling. The opportunity for change afforded by all forms of media makes global citizenship achievable and gives special meaning to the principles of freedom of expression and intercultural dialogue.

When not cooperating with traditional media, individual citizens and their organizations are using the Internet to organize themselves and to mobilize public opinion by producing their own radio shows, newsletters, newspapers and magazines, wikis, spoof websites and sites that expose misinformation. Some activist websites specialize in one issue. Culture jamming, for example, is a response to the flood of consumer messages that overwhelm us every day and isolate us from our duty as citizens to engage in public life. Wikipedia provides a list of culture jamming techniques. Other websites provide general information about how to use the media to achieve results. An activist toolkit is provided by, for instance. And Amnesty International also supplies toolkits for people who wanted to become active.

The new reality of media is that media space is shared by powerful organizations like corporations, governments and political parties as well as non-governmental organizations, community groups and individuals. In some cases there is obvious tension and attempts to subvert the messages of others. In other cases, people have been able to work together to promote the public good.

There are four areas where citizens can engage with traditional and new media for social action:

  • Freedom of expression through citizen journalism
  • Digital storytelling in the development of identity
  • Intercultural skills and social action
  • Freeing the Mind to use new technology and information for social action


Glossary of MIL terms

Active audience

A theory that people receive and interpret media messages in the light of their own history, experience and perspective so that different groups of people may interpret the same message in different ways.


A set of practices and techniques that draw consumer attention to products or services with the purpose of persuading them to purchase the product or service advertised.


The group of consumers for whom a media text was constructed as well as anyone else who is exposed to the text.


A website, usually maintained by one person, where he or she posts commentary, descriptions of events, pictures or videos. Other users can leave comments on blog entries but only the owner can edit the actual blog. Blogs are often referred to as ‘online journals’.

Citizen journalism

Refers to the ability of people, using digital media, to interact with and reshape news and content by providing their own information, comment or perspective.

Citizenship (active)

A member of a defined community (political, national or social). Citizenship is usually understood to comprise a set of rights (e.g. voting and access to welfare) and responsibilities (e.g. participation). Active citizenship is the philosophy that citizens should work towards the betterment of their community through economic participation, public and volunteer work, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens.

Citizenship/civic responsibility

The state of being a member of a particular social, political or national community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities.

Citizenship (global)

The participation of women/men and boys/girls in society for higher purposes that respect and promote others’ rights. This includes respecting the rights of others to privacy, being aware of copyright and intellectual rights, demanding quality from media and other information providers. Through global citizenship all citizens are empowered to lead their own action in the world.

Code of ethics/ code of practice/ diversity code

The set of principles of conduct for journalists, which describe the appropriate behaviour to meet the highest professional standards. Examples of such codes were established by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). While there are differences between various existing codes, most share common principles, including truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability, as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.

Common narratives of cultural pluralism

The framing of a common historical narrative can be crucial in conflict prevention and post-conflict strategies. Arguably, news media outlets constitute legitimate ‘places of memory’. Divergent memories have been the source of many conflicts throughout history so intercultural dialogue represents a key element in the building of a shared memory base.


A process whereby information is packaged, channeled and imparted by a sender to a receiver via some medium. All forms of communication require a sender, a message and an intended recipient. However, the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender’s intent to communicate at the time of communication in order for the act of communication to occur.


Set of facts and circumstances that surround a media text and help determine its interpretation.

Contextual analysis

The pedagogical approach in MIL teaching that focuses on the study and analysis of the technical, narrative and situational contexts of media texts.


In the media context, refers to a standard or norm that acts as a rule governing behaviour.


Refers to the ability to transform different kinds of information, whether voice, sound, image or text, into digital code, which is then accessible by a range of devices, from the personal computer to the mobile phone, thus creating a digital communication environment.


A set of rights granted to the author or creator of a work, to restrict others’ ability to copy, redistribute and reshape the content. Rights are frequently owned by the companies who sponsor the work rather than the creators themselves, and can be bought and sold on the market.

Critical thinking

The ability to examine and analyze information and ideas in order to understand and assess their values and assumptions, rather than simply taking propositions at face value.

Cultural interaction

A mix of dominant and minority cultures. Throughout history it has found expression in a variety of cultural forms and practices, from cultural borrowings and exchanges to cultural impositions through war for examples. Nowadays thanks to a broader recognition of the universality of Human Rights, it is possible to think in terms of genuine exchanges on the basis of equality amongst all the world’s cultures.

Cultural stereotypes

Refers to a label or a particular behaviour which is attributed to an individual or a group referring to their cultural context. A culturally diverse MIL process attempts to unmask cultural stereotypes and dialogue remains the key to unlocking these deep-rooted antagonisms and to pre-empting their often violent political expressions.


A shared, learned and symbolic system of values, beliefs and attitudes that shapes and influences perception and behaviour – an abstract ‘mental blueprint’ or ‘mental code’. Also refers to an integrated pattern of human knowledge, beliefs, and behaviour that depends on the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning.


A system of government where the people have final authority which they exercise directly or indirectly through their elected agents chosen in a free electoral system. It also implies freedom to exercise choice over decisions affecting the life of the individual and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.


The treatment of a subject or issue (spoken or written) discussed at length.


Genuine respect for and appreciation of difference – central to the idea of pluralism. Democratic societies or systems protect and value diversity as part of human rights and respect for human dignity.


The person responsible for the editorial side of a publication, determining the final content of a text, especially of a newspaper or magazine. This term should be clearly differentiated from media owner, which refers to the person or group of stakeholders who own the media company.

Editorial independence

The professional freedom entrusted to editors to make editorial decisions without interference from the owner of the media outlet or any other state or non-state actors.


Extension of agency, an individual’s or group’s ability and freedom to decide and make purposeful choices to fulfil their desired goal. Empowerment places individuals as part of social, institutional and political structures and norms with which they must interact to have choices. Moreover it gives full access to the technology necessary for people to be fully media and information literate and to use these competencies to interact with individuals and as well as other social, political, cultural and economic institutions.


The idea that everyone, irrespective of age, gender, religion and ethnicity, is entitled to the same rights. It is a fundamental principle of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights captured in the words ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’. The idea of citizenship embraces equality issues.


Positive standards and values that guide the actions of individuals and may be referred to as moral laws.

Ethical use of information

For UNESCO, ethical use of information includes all the positive practices that are adopted to ensure the right use of information.


A form of entertainment that enacts a story by a sequence of images and sound, giving the illusion of continuous movement.

Freedom of expression (FOE)

A fundamental human right. It is used to indicate not only the freedom of verbal speech but any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information. The freedom of the press is a corollary to this right and essential to the building and supporting of communities and civil society.

Freedom of information (FOI)

The right of citizens to access information held by public bodies.

Freedom of speech

The freedom to speak freely without censorship or limitation, or both. The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes used to indicate not only freedom of verbal speech, but any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

Freedom of the press

The media in general (not just print media) being free from direct censorship or control by government – does not preclude the application of competition law to prevent monopolies, or state allocation of broadcast frequencies.


A generic term applied to anyone who has the role of filtering ideas and information for publication or broadcasting – the internal decision-making process of relaying or withholding information from the media to the masses. Gatekeeping occurs at all levels of the media hierarchy – from a reporter deciding which sources to include in a story to editors deciding which stories to print.


Specific kinds of media content (e.g. entertainment, information, news, advertising, drama, etc.) Each has its own general purpose and design.

Global village

First mentioned by Marshall McLuhan in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy, this term describes how the globe has been contracted into a village by electronic technology and the instantaneous movement of information from every quarter to every point at the same time. It has come to be identified with the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Good governance

Epitomized by predictable, open and enlightened policy-making, a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos acting to further the public good, the rule of law, transparent processes, and a strong civil society participating in public affairs.


Best understood as a process of governing that involves interaction between the formal institutions and those in civil society. Governance is concerned with who wields power, authority and influence, how these are used, and how policies and decisions concerning social and public life are made. Governance embraces both the institutions of government and the practices and behaviour that inhabit them.

Hate speech

Any communication that incites hatred of a defined group of people because of their collective characteristics (ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc.).

Human rights

A set of entitlements and protections regarded as necessary to protect the dignity and self-worth of a human being. Such rights are usually captured in national and international documentation that articulates these rights (e.g. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, etc.). Also, the rights of groups or peoples – seeks to protect especially poor and/or marginalized groups in society.


Information and communication technology consists of all technical means used to handle information and facilitate communication, including computer and network hardware, as well as necessary software. In other words, ICT consists of Information Technology as well as telephony, broadcast media, and all types of audio and video processing and transmission. It stresses the role of communications (telephone lines and wireless signals) in modern information technology.


A doctrine, philosophy, body of beliefs or principles belonging to an individual or group. Can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, a way of looking at things (as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies), or as a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society.


An iconic mental representation or picture.

Indigenous or community media

Any form of media that is created and controlled by a community – either a geographic community or a community of identity or interest. Community media are separate from either private (commercial) media, state-run media or public broadcast media, and media are increasingly recognized as a crucial element in a vibrant and democratic media system.


A broad term that can cover data; knowledge derived from study, experience, or instruction; signals or symbols. In the media world, information is often used to describe knowledge of specific events or situations that has been gathered or received by communication, intelligence or news reports.

Information literacy

Focuses on the purposes of engaging with information and the process of becoming informed. It is strongly associated with the concepts of learning to learn and making decisions through its emphasis on defining needs and problems, relevant information and using it critically and responsibly/ethically. It is a dynamic thinking process and a set of competences that is not totally dependent on the presence of particular information systems and technologies, but which is greatly influenced by these.

Information literate

To be information literate is to have the thinking and practical skills, knowledge and attitudes that enable one to make ethical use of information.

Information sources

The persons, groups and documents from which information is obtained.

Intercultural dialogue

Assumes a degree of communicative competence, defined as the ability to communicate appropriately with cultural others by gaining familiarity with a wide variety of social and cultural contexts. It requires a critical intercultural empathy. Intercultural dialogue involves understanding the ways in which cultures relate to one another, awareness of cultural commonalities and shared goals, and identification of the challenges to be met in reconciling cultural differences.

Intercultural learning

Relates to how we perceive others who are especially different from us. It is about how communities can inter-link to promote equality, solidarity and opportunity for all. It is about fostering respect and promoting dignity among cultures, especially where some are in the minority, while others are in the majority.


A global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business and government networks, of local to global scope that are linked by a broad array of electronic and optical networking technologies.


The collecting, writing, editing and presenting of news in newspapers, magazines, radio and television broadcasts or the Internet.


A person who collects and disseminates information about current events, people, trends and issues. His or her work is acknowledged as journalism.


The fact or condition of having information or of being learned.

Knowledge society

A knowledge society exists where a broad cross-section of groups including professionals, users of media and information, in general, and citizens who previously did not have access to technology, interact, search for and use information and media, access and create knowledge in various fields using ICTs. A knowledge society is a society that is nurtured by its diversity and its capacities. In building real knowledge societies, the new prospects held out by the internet and multimedia tools must not cause us to lose interest in traditional knowledge sources such as the press, radio, television and, above all, the school.

Library skills

Competency in the use of a library.

Life-long learning

Connected to the idea of learner-centred education. It recognizes that life does not ‘start’ and ‘stop’ after a programme of instruction within a specific time and space. Each individual is constantly learning, which makes media and information technologies critical to sustain this kind of learning. Development of media and information literacy is not restricted to simply completing a programme, but extends beyond formal education contexts. It occurs in various settings (places of work, in community activities, non-formal education settings, etc.).


The ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying context. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve his or her goals, develop his or her knowledge and potential to participate fully in community and wider society. At the heart of an expanded definition of literacy is the ability to analyze and evaluate what is being said, heard, and seen – orally, in print or in a multimedia format – and act accordingly.

Mainstream media

Media disseminated via the largest distribution channels, which are therefore representative of what the majority of media consumers are likely to encounter. The term also denotes media that generally reflect the prevailing currents of thought, influence or activity.


The process by which companies create customer interest in goods or services. Marketing generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication and business developments.

Mass media

Media designed to be consumed by large audiences using the agencies of technology. Mass media are channels of communication through which messages flow.


Physical objects used to communicate, or mass communication through physical objects such as radio, television, computers, film, etc. It also refers to any physical object used to communicate media messages. Media are a source of credible information in which contents are provided through an editorial process determined by journalistic values and therefore editorial accountability can be attributed to an organization or a legal person. In more recent years the term media is often used to include new online media.

Media content

Media produced and delivered to audiences.

Media languages

Conventions, formats, symbols and narrative structures that indicate the meaning of media messages to an audience. Symbolically, the language of electronic media works in much the same way as grammar works in print media.

Media literacy

Understanding and using mass media in either an assertive or non-assertive way, including an informed and critical understanding of media, the techniques they employ and their effects. Also the ability to read, analyze, evaluate and produce communication in a variety of media forms (e.g. television, print, radio, computers etc.). Another understanding of the term is the ability to decode, analyze, evaluate and produce communication in a variety of forms.

Media literate

Being a media literate means to have the practical skills, knowledge and attitudes that lead to understand the role and functions of media in democratic societies, critical evaluate media content, engage with media for self-expression, intercultural dialogue and democratic participation. People are then more likely to be better equipped to recognize the importance of media and other information providers and the weakness or strength of the messages or information they disseminate.


The information sent from a source to a receiver.


Addresses the competencies needed to deal with technologies, information content, and the different media. At the beginning it was used the term “mediacy” that also brings to mind the notion of mediation, between one individual and another and between one person and information content. It refers to the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in exploring information space; discovering, learning, finding, evaluating, understanding the ethical implications of all of these and, ideally, behaving in an ethical way. This ongoing series of processes is very much dependent on and related to context, culture and tradition and to each individual uniquely.


MIL stands for media and information literacy, and refers to the essential competencies (knowledge, skills and attitude) that allow citizens to engage with media and other information providers effectively and develop critical thinking and life-long learning skills for socializing and becoming active citizens.

Multi literacy

Refers to the increasing multiplicity and integration of significant modes of meaning-making, where the textual is also related to the visual, the audio, the spatial, the behavioral, and so on. Thus, in place of the idea of literacy, multi-literacies refer to the plurality of information and communication channels and forms, and the increasing salience of cultural and linguistic diversity in the world.


The combined use of several media, especially for the purposes of education or entertainment. It can also mean the integration of text, sound, full – or partial–motion video or graphics in digital form.


Represent implicit belief systems that express the fears, desires and aspirations of a culture, such as the myth of the ‘heroic journey’. In these stories, the hero – unaware of his destiny – is called upon to take up an important quest. The hero usually passes through several stages as part of the quest, including: his ‘birth’ or beginning, becoming aware of his ‘calling’ or destiny, experiencing romance, encountering foes, receiving advice from a wise elder, and finally returning home. The stories, or narratives, that tell the story of the hero is the epic.


The telling of a story or plot through a sequence of events. In the context of a media text, it is the coherent sequencing of events in time and space.

New media

Content organized and distributed on digital platforms.


The communication of information on current events: print, broadcast, Internet, or word of mouth to a third party or mass audience.

News media

The section of the mass media that focuses on presenting current news to the public. It includes print media (e.g. newspapers and magazines), broadcast media (radio and television), and increasingly, Internet-based media (e.g. World Wide Web pages and blogs).


A regularly scheduled publication containing news, information and advertising, usually printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint.

News values

Sometimes called news criteria, they determine how much prominence a news story is given by a media outlet, and the attention it is given by the audience. Some of the most important news values include frequency, unexpectedness, personalization, meaningfulness or being conflict-generated.

Participation (civic participation)

Participation is at the heart of democracy, with its main aim to ensure that each individual can take his or her place in society and make contributions to its development. It is an important element of democratic practice and crucial to decision-making processes, considered a cornerstone of basic human rights. Media and information literacy can enhance the development of knowledge and participation in society. It adds value in promoting participation in future knowledge societies and is essential for taking advantage of the democratic, social, educational, economic, cultural, health and sustainability opportunities provided by media, memory institutions and other information providers including those on the Internet.


Within the term pluralism we mean the inclusion of diverse groups into the society so as to create a multicultural environment. New media and information technologies could be worthwhile for this purpose because they create a tension between global and local cultural interests that threatens to curtail the expression and appreciation of cultural diversity, multilingualism and pluralism.

Pluralism (media pluralism)

Characterized by a diversity of media outlets, both in terms of ownership (private, public and community) and types of media (print, radio, television and Internet). More broadly, pluralism in society is characterized by a situation in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious or social groups maintain an autonomous participation in and development of their traditional culture or special interests within the confines of a common civilization.


Audio and video media files that are released periodically and may be listened to podcasts on devices such as the computer and smartphones.

Poor governance

Characterized by arbitrary policy making, unaccountable bureaucracies, unenforced or unjust legal systems, the abuse of executive power, a civil society unengaged in public life, and widespread corruption.

Popular culture

The totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, themes, images and other phenomena that are preferred by an informal consensus in the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid-20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


Print media responsible for gathering and publishing news in the form of newspapers or magazines.

Print media

Media consisting of paper and ink – reproduced in a printing process that is traditionally mechanical.


The process of putting together media content to make a finished media product. It can also refer to the process of creating media texts as well as the people engaged in this process.  Production of communication content has also opened up new possibilities for enhancing media and information literacy. The creation, collaboration and sharing of (user-generated) communication content via the Internet and digital media forms offer substantial benefits to people.


An attitude aiming to protect someone from potentially harmful situations. Historically such debates have been framed around issues concerning media and children, media and violence, media and culture and media effects in general. While protectionism is often driven by well-meaning, positive motivations, it can result in a situation where children’s active participation in the media is restricted. Among media regulators themselves, the emphasis is now moving away from censorship, and towards consumer advice.

Public domain information

Applies to original creative works, including poetry, music, art, books, movies, product designs and other forms of intellectual property, such as computer programmes. Being in the public domain means the creative work can be used for any purpose the user desires. Public domain items are considered part of the collective cultural heritage of society in general, as opposed to the property of an individual.

Public interest

The concept of general welfare or benefit to the public as a whole, in contrast to the particular interests of a person or group. There is no agreement as to what constitutes the public interest, but the term reflects the sense that some interests pertain to everyone, regardless of their status or position, and require action to protect them.

Public service ad

A type of advertisement that addresses some aspect of the public interest, rather than a product or brand.

Public service media

Publicly-funded media that are often required to play a role in supporting the public interest by providing balanced and diverse programming that is representative of the community as a whole.

Public sphere

The notion of a public space in which members of society can freely exchange news, information and opinions – a place where individuals meet and exchange views on matters of common concern in public, on the basis of equality and inclusivity. The most influential modern theorist of the public sphere is Jürgen Habermas.


The belief that the genetic factors which constitute race are a primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.


Communication of audible signals encoded in electromagnetic waves – transmission of programmes for the public by radio broadcast.

Regulation (media)

Refers to attempts to control or affect the behaviour of media organizations and media actors by developing and enforcing rules and codes for their behaviour.


Processes by which a constructed media text stands for, symbolizes, describes or represents people, places, events or ideas that are real and exist outside the text. It can also mean the relationship between actual places, people, events and ideas, and media content.


Rules imposed by political or economic actors on themselves. For the media, self-regulation implies respecting codes of ethics and codes of practice without interference from any governing source or institution.


Prejudice or discrimination based on sex, especially discrimination against women – behaviour, conditions or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex.

Social literacy

Examples of social literacies which are commonly discussed are scientific, global, political, family, financial and cultural literacies. Media and information literacy underpins all of these literacies.

Social networking

Online connections with people in networks surrounding a common interest or activity. Social network activity includes people publishing profiles that provide information about themselves. Facebook is an example of a popular social network.


The programmes and data that give instructions to a computer on how to handle data or operations of various kinds. Examples range from office software that produces and manipulates data, to software that controls the shaping and editing of images.


A common form of media representation that uses instantly recognized characteristics to label members of a social or cultural group. It can also have both negative and positive connotations. While inequalities and gender stereotypes exist in social structures and the minds of people, media and other information providers, including those on the Internet, have the potential to eliminate stereotypes providing the means of communication among cultures and peoples.


The use of symbols, including images, concepts and archetypes, to represent aspects of reality (e.g. bad cowboys wearing black hats and good cowboys wearing white hats).

Target audience

The group of people to whom a media text is specifically addressed because of a set of shared characteristics, such as age, gender, profession, class, etc.


Hardware used to create and communicate with media (e.g. radios, computers, telephones, satellites, printing presses, etc.).


The transmission of dynamic or sometimes static images, generally with accompanying sound, via electric or electromagnetic signals; the visual and audio content of such signals; and the organizations that produce and broadcast television programmes. UNESCO encourages the production, safeguarding and dissemination of diversified contents in the media and global information networks, including promoting the role of public radio and television services in the development of audiovisual productions of good quality.


Media text usually refers to the individual results of media production, both written audio and video, (e.g. a TV episode, a book, an issue of a magazine or newspaper, an advertisement, etc.).


The ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. Transliteracy is more concerned in mapping meaning across different media instead of developing particular literacies about various media.

User-generated content (UGC)

Also known as consumer-generated media (CGM) and user-created content, UGC refers to various kinds of publicly-available media content that can be produced by the users of digital media. Those consuming the content therefore also produce content.

Visual media

Media that rely on images to communicate meaning (e.g. television, film, the Internet, etc.).

Web 2.0

Applications that facilitate interactivity and allow users to design their own software features. Web 2.0 applications emphasize the importance of collaboration and sharing.


A collection of web pages, images and data with a common Uniform Resource Locator (URL) (see World Wide Web below).


A website usually maintained by more than one person, where users collaborate on content. They often have multiple interlinked pages and content including commentary, description of events, documents, etc. A wiki differs from a blog in that its content is usually updated by multiple users and a larger variety of materials can be downloaded onto it.

World Wide Web

A service operating over the Internet that enables enormous volumes of content to be available by providing three key functions: a publishing format, HyperText Markup Language (HTML); an address for each piece of information (known as its Uniform Resource Locator or URL); and a means of transferring information, through the HyperText Transfer Protocol (http).


A video-sharing website where users upload videos on any topic of interest to them.

This workshop material was adapted from UNESCO’s Massive Online Course in MIL.

The Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media & Information Literacy (GAPMIL)

GAPMIL was launched during the Abuja conference to give greater impetus to fostering media and information literate citizenries in the governance and development agenda, GAPMIL was established through a call for interest which was distributed to stakeholders groups globally. Close to 300 organizations responded and agreed to be associated with the GAPMIL.

This was followed by a three‐month online debate and culminated with the gathering of partners and further debates in Nigeria from 26 to 28 June, 2014, during the Global Forum for Partnerships on MIL, incorporating the International Conference on MIL and Intercultural Dialogue.

Cooperation with Member States

As part of its action plan, GAPMIL will among other things:

  • Assist Member States to articulate national MIL policies and strategies – integrating these with existing national ICTs, information, media and communication, and education policies, strategies, and regulatory system.

Pan-African Alliance on Media and Information Literacy (PAMIL)

The Pan-African Alliance on Media and Information Literacy (PAMIL) is the African chapter of GAPMIL. It was agreed upon by African participants at the UNESCO/UNAOC Global Forum for Partnership on MIL (GFPMIL) conference in Abuja, Nigeria, June 26-29, 2013.

As the name suggests, PAMIL is planned as an independent alliance among the different organizations and individuals that are working on Media and Information Literacy across the African continent.