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Making media literacy (and ethics) a priority in Palestine

Kashif director Riham Abu Aita also holds the position of communications manager at Jerusalem24.

Jerusalem24 – When so much of the news content we consume comes from social media, it is particularly important – not only for journalists but also news consumers – to take steps to improve their media literacy and fact-checking skills.

Kashif (“Detector”), the Palestinian Platform for Fact-Checking and Media Literacy, concluded on Monday a two-day training workshop in Ramallah in partnership with Arab Reporters for Investigative journalism as well as the French Agency for Media Development, and funded by the French Development Agency.

Kashif launched three years ago at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Kashef co-founder and director Riham Abu Aita tells Jerusalem24.

“We noticed there was a lot of misinformation about Covid so we started this initiative to focus on health information,” she says. “Then we expanded our work to cover all sorts of misinformation.”

In addition to debunking false or misleading stories on social media, Kashif began offering trainings, launched awareness campaigns, and coordinated meetings with officials, media outlets, and other relevant stakeholders.

“The culture of fact-checking is still new in Palestine,” she says. “So we are trying to follow a comprehensive approach to reach as many sectors as we can.”

Accessible to the public

The two-day workshop addressed both ethical and practical issues surrounding fact-checking processes, available tools, and – a first in Palestine – the use of AI in fact-checking.

Abu Aita stresses that these tools are available for the general public’s use as well: “There are a lot of available tools that can be used by anyone, not only journalists, and they are free: like InVid for videos and photos, like TinEye or Google Images…”

The invitation to the training was initially extended to members of the public in addition to media professionals, with university students, civil society organizations, and government employees all expressing an interest.

However, Kashif received such a high volume of applications they opted to address media professionals during this round of training, with future trainings (including one in cooperation with UNESCO’s office in Ramallah) in the West Bank and also Gaza available to anyone interested in attending.

Abu Aita also attributes this success to the “good relationship” Kashif has established with local journalists over the past three years. “They trust us and trust our work.”

A challenging time for journalists

Abu Aita explains that Palestinian journalists are facing particular challenges these days, spending all their time fact-checking social media rather than doing “their normal work”.

“It’s really very stressful for journalists because they are receiving a lot of information from social media users, seeing a lot of rumors on social media – and these are not from journalists, not from professionals,” she says. “They are really suffering from the spread of false information.”

Abu Aita reiterates that fact-checking is still in its infancy in Palestine, with many issues to iron out and improvements to be made. One effective way of addressing this is improving media literacy – something that starts in school, Kashif believes. The organization is currently working on an agreement with the Ministry of Education to implement such media literacy programs.

The ethics of sharing

And beyond the basic fact-checking and critical thinking skills which every school student (and adult!) should acquire, Abu Aita says social media users and media professionals need to consider the ethics of content-sharing as well – even in cases that don’t involve disinformation, but rather, for example, visual materials of injured or deceased people.

“To be honest we don’t have a culture of thinking about victims or victims’ families,” she says. “Like, if there is a raid of the Israeli occupation in any cities, we are focusing on just showing the worst, how this occupation is brutal, or how they are harming the Palestinians and attacking the Palestinians – without thinking about the victims and if they want to show [them]selves in these situations.”

“It’s the same when there is a car accident.” She mentions a widely-circulated video showing the aftermath of an accident which caused several fatalities in the West Bank earlier this week.

“I’m not sure if people are doing this intentionally,” she says, “but they don’t have a vision of how we [should] publish content: without harming people, and maintaining the right to privacy.”

Listen to the full interview on Vibes.

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