“I never would have had the courage to speak my mind in front of men,” said Fauna Kazongominga. When she was a teenager, no one could have imagined what she is now accomplishing in eastern Namibia.
As a media literacy trainer in her early twenties, she teaches young people how to assess and process news and information. Fauna acquired her knowledge in a training course offered by DW Akademie.
She is not the only one who has grown through her experience. She says her students have also become more open-minded and are now wary of simple messages. The students can apply their knowledge at the community radio station that DW Akademie provides consulting and technology for. The radio studio is open to all residents and caters to their needs.
By getting involved, Fauna asserts her right to freedom of expression and access to information as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At DW Akademie, Germany’s leading organization in international media development, fostering this universal human right is the basis of all projects and plans. As a part of that mission, DW Akademie teaches media skills around the world through discussions, training sessions and practice.
We would all like to live in a world where journalists do not need special protection because the importance of their work is universally recognized. We would like to be certain that every media user in the world is capable of detecting false information while protecting their data and privacy.
Freedom of expression and information are more important than ever
Projects run by DW Akademie and its partners are becoming increasingly important. In 2017, 87 percent of people around the world were still denied their fundamental right of freedom of expression. Today, more journalists are in prison compared to two years ago and there are no signs that the numbers will decline any time soon. On the contrary, last year's assessment of the situation of freedom of the press was worse than it had been in the previous twelve years.
The situation in many of the countries we work in is becoming more precarious. Just recently, Burundi seemed to be a peaceful country but today just entering the country is a risk. Yesterday we were welcome in Egypt but today we fear for the safety of our participants and trainers.
"Countries that do not protect the press and NGOs often have the highest rates of corruption,” wrote Transparency International in its latest annual report. The systematic restriction of the right to information remains an instrument of oppression. It is a means of retaining power and financial gain for a certain group of people. Freedom of opinion and freedom of information are a precious but increasingly rare asset. We must continue to foster this human right.
Working with partners to counter this downward trend
As a strategic partner of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), DW Akademie is working to counter this negative trend. With funding from the BMZ, the Federal Foreign Office and the European Union, we teach people the skills and knowledge they need to understand the media in around 50 countries. We also foster the human right of freedom of expression by advocating better legal conditions and by helping media professionals acquire qualifications and develop economically viable media offerings. More than 100 million people are already benefiting from these programs.
Teaching media literacy is especially important to us. When users are able to identify disinformation and resist manipulation, democracies are nurtured and conflicts defused. Civil society is then able to withstand the negative effects of hate speech and propaganda. Together with our local partners, we focus on the weakest members of society, mainly marginalized individuals or groups, especially in rural areas, and the illiterate.
Learners spread the word
Under the working title of #TruthMatters, we are planning to set up a digital educational platform to teach media literacy in the target regions and languages of Deutsche Welle. This type of platform can meet the digital challenges of our world and can enable a knowledge transfer across borders. It is clear that when learners pass on their knowledge to others, it makes our work sustainable and we can have an impact. We have already described the project to politicians and are in discussions to implement it with the new German government.
The right of free access to information entails more than merely possessing the technical means. For each individual, it means making a real choice between sources. This can only work if people are able to see through propaganda, lies and manipulation and thus be in the position to resist them. Freedom of information needs to be protected. Our vision is that every human being worldwide be allowed to fight for her or his right to freedom of opinion and information. This includes of course Fauna Kazongominga and the young people she trains in Namibia.