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Media Literacy Forum In Saint Lucia Highlights Danger Of Fake News

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The Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in Saint Lucia; the U.S. Embassy in Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS; and the Government of Saint Lucia recently co-hosted the 2023 GCTF Media Literacy Forum.

This year’s GCTF-Affiliated Event for Caribbean and Latin American Region was held on Friday, November 17, 2023, at Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort, Castries, Saint Lucia, under the theme, “Building Democratic Resilience against Disinformation and Misinformation”, and was hosted using in-person with hybrid GCTF seminar format.

This year’s GCTF-Affiliated Event lasted three and a half hours, comprising a welcome ceremony, keynote speeches, and two workshops for the public in the morning.

The workshops were live-streamed on appropriate social media platforms for those who could not participate in person.

The first session explored how to enhance media literacy, including introduction of technology or mobile app to decipher the information sources.

The second session considered the impacts of misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and fake news toward democracy and sharing experiences of best practices and policy recommendations on how to counter fake news.

Opening remarks were delivered by H.E. Peter Chia-Yen Chen, Ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to Saint Lucia, who said misinformation and disinformation pose a threat to many democracies, including Taiwan.

“In the digital age, disinformation and misinformation can spread like wildfire, often faster than the truth can catch up,” said Ambassador Chen. “It undermines public trust, distorts public discourse, and can even pose serious threats to democracy and social cohesion. As we navigate an era of information overload, it is imperative that we equip ourselves with the tools and knowledge necessary to tell apart truth from falsehood.”

Linda Taglialatela, U.S. Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS, said the need for strengthening media literacy becomes even more important in the digital age so as to safeguard communities and countries.

“In an age where communication flows freely and swiftly across countless media platforms, our societies are inundated with an unprecedented amount of information, much of which is unverified, biased or intentionally misleading,” she said. “Misinformation and disinformation have become insidious threats to the foundations of our democratic institutions and the well-being of individuals. It is in this context that we recognize the critical importance of strengthening media literacy.”

Meanwhile, Acting Prime Minister, Hon. Shawn Edward, Minister for Education, Sustainable Development, Innovation, Science, Technology and Vocational Training, said helping people decipher fact from fiction remains a crucial role for the important institutions in society so that people are not misled.

“The answer is not easy, it’s not simple, because the methods utilized by the forces of disinformation are varied and complex and are incessant,” said Hon. Edward. “They are relentless, the peddlers of misinformation and disinformation.”

Hon. Edward added: “We must give (people) the tools to be discerning… We must give our people an education that teaches them critical thinking and to help them develop their critical thinking skills.”

The keynote speech were delivered by H.E. Ping-cheng Lo, Minister without Portfolio, from the Republic of China (Taiwan), and Mr. Francisco Bencosme, Senior Policy Advisor for China from the Office of Policy of United States Agency for International Development (U.S.A.).

Speakers and audience all realized and recognized that broadcasting of fake news, hostile revelations and various kinds of manipulation have become common practice on social media.

This disinformation fueled by active groups with hidden agendas has serious consequences that could result in the destabilization of a society, especially to damage democracy by undermining trust, manipulating public opinion, polarizing social division, eroding democratic processes, and weakening media integrity.

Several speakers mentioned that in order to counter the damaging effects of disinformation and misinformation on democracy, it is therefore important to promote media literacy, critical thinking, fact-checking, and transparency.

Strengthening digital platforms’ efforts to combat disinformation, supporting independent journalism, and fostering a culture of civil discourse are also vital for maintaining the health and resilience of democratic systems.

The GCTF (or Global Cooperation and Training Framework) was established by Taiwan’s government and the US government in 2015 as a platform to utilize Taiwan’s strengths and expertise to address global issues that are of mutual concern while enhancing Taiwan’s multilateral cooperation throughout the region.

Over the last eight years, the GCTF has held many international workshops on public health, law enforcement, cooperation, women’s empowerment, energy efficiency, e-commerce, cyber-security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and media literacy and thousands of government officials, experts and civil societies from over 100 countries have participated in this event.

SOURCE: Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in Saint Lucia 

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