The Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALARA), a long-standing DW Akademie partner, has received UNESCO's GAPMIL Award at a conference in Gothenburg.
The non-governmental organization shows young Palestinians affected by the Middle East conflict new and creative approaches in the areas of communications and the media.
UNESCO presents the Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy Award (GAPMIL) as part of the annual Global MIL Week Feature Conference. The award is aimed at individuals and groups who integrate Media and Information Literacy (MIL) into their work in an innovative way. DW Akademie spoke with Hania Bitar, Director General of PYALARA.
DW Akademie: PYALARA prevailed over more than 70 contestants. Why were you presented the award?
Hania Bitar: One of our mottos is "MIL is a way of life". It influences all areas of society and affects children and adults, media and universities, civil society and human rights organizations.
Our organization has developed a comprehensive strategy that includes these aspects. For example, we've established a genuine MIL culture at a number of Palestinian schools. The handbook we've produced has raised awareness among teachers and other stakeholders, especially as the Ministry of Education is also using 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 the psychological pressure that young Palestinian women are particularly exposed to. It helps them to protect themselves in the digital sphere, defend themselves against fake news and online discrimination, and to get involved and defend their rights.
DW Akademie: What challenges do you face in your day-to-day work?
Hania Bitar: The first challenge is to explain to people what MIL is about and to make it relevant to them, regardless of their status, type of work or how much they know about media and the Internet. Concrete examples from their lives make them take notice and arouse their interest.
The second challenge is to break down old ways of thinking. We are glad the Ministry of Education has been open and understanding and has included some of the MIL principles in the curricula. Jordan also started taking similar steps in March 2019. This means a lot of work because curricula in other countries in this region are extremely rigid. It will take time before changes take place at an official level.
The third challenge, of course, is money. You have to have the financial means if you really want to change something. You'll have a greater reach and impact if you can prove
your work's results to official bodies, and ultimately, if you can establish MIL's importance with stakeholders.
DW Akademie: How can your MIL concept contribute to defusing the conflict between the Palestinian Territories and Israel?
Hania Bitar: MIL is very important for both sides – for the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. Consumers of digital information can learn how to verify specific information and analyze content, and also see whether a news item has been produced to achieve certain political goals or whether it is valid and accurate.
With MIL, people can become reliable producers and critical consumers of online news and information. Unfortunately, the Internet is often misused to brainwash people to achieve political goals. MIL can give people enough knowledge and a sense of responsibility to ask questions and analyze information before they take it at face value.
DW Akademie: What does this award mean in terms of Pyalara's future activities?
Hania Bitar: We hope the award will help us make MIL part of as many people's lives as possible, and that it will become easier to make our voices heard in the Palestinian Territories and elsewhere in the region. This way, people will feel more comfortable in the digital world and have sufficient knowledge and skills, and a sense of responsibility.