The Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALARA) is a long-standing DW Akademie partner and has received UNESCO's GAPMIL Award at a conference in Gothenburg.
This non-governmental organization shows young Palestinians affected by the Middle East conflict new and innovative approaches to communications and the media.
The Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy Award (GAPMIL) is presented by UNESCO as part of the annual Global MIL Week Feature Conference. It is aimed at individuals and groups who creatively include Media and Information Literacy (MIL) in their work. DW Akademie spoke with Hania Bitar, Director General of PYALARA.
DW Akademie: More than 70 contestants took part in the competition. Why did PYALARA win?
Hania Bitar: One of our mottos is "MIL is a way of life". MIL makes an impact on all areas of society, affecting children and adults, media and universities as well as civil society and human rights organizations.
Our organization's comprehensive strategy includes these aspects. For example, we've established a genuine MIL culture at a number of Palestinian schools. Our handbook has raised awareness among teachers and other stakeholders, especially since the Ministry of Education uses part of the handbook. Many young people and social groups are becoming more aware of issues such as fake news, digital security and rights, and cyber attacks.
MIL can ease psychological pressures that young Palestinian women are particularly exposed to. It helps them protect themselves in the digital sphere, defend themselves against fake news and online discrimination, and also to get involved and defend their rights.
DW Akademie: What challenges do you face in your daily work?
Hania Bitar: The first challenge is explaining to people what MIL is about and making it relevant, regardless of their status, profession or how know much about media and the Internet. We take concrete examples from their lives and this arouses their interest.
The second challenge is breaking down old ways of thinking. We're glad the Ministry of Education has been open and has included some of the MIL principles in the curricula. Jordan started taking similar steps in March 2019. This involves a lot of work because curricula are extremely rigid in countries elsewhere in this region, and it will take time before official changes are made.
Money, of course, is the third challenge. You need the financial resources to really change something. You'll have a greater impact if you can prove your results to official bodies and ultimately, if you can establish MIL's importance among stakeholders.
DW Akademie: How can your MIL concept help defuse the conflict between the Palestinian Territories and Israel?
Hania Bitar: MIL is extremely important for both the Palestinians and Israelis. Consumers of digital information can learn to verify specific information and analyze content, and to see whether a news item was produced to achieve certain political goals or whether it is valid and accurate.
MIL helps people become reliable producers and critical consumers of online news and information. However, the Internet is often misused for brainwashing and achieving political goals. MIL can give people the sufficient know-how and sense of responsibility to ask questions and analyze information before taking it at face value.
DW Akademie: What does this award mean for Pyalara's future activities?
Hania Bitar: We hope it will help us make MIL part of as many people's lives as possible and that it becomes easier to make our voices heard in the Palestinian Territories and elsewhere in the region. That people will feel more comfortable in the digital world and have the knowledge and skills they need as well as a sense of responsibility.