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This two-part session dealt with the work of UNESCO in the field of Internet governance and journalism. The first part was an open forum in which stakeholders from different regions reflected on the use of the UNESCO Internet Universality indicators as a tool for assessing Internet development, fostering online democracy and human rights and achieving 2030 SDGs. The second part of the session was devoted to launching the new UNESCO curriculum that deals with journalism and misinformation. This curriculum is designed to give journalism and educators a framework regarding the navigation of disinformation.
The first part session, which dealt with Internet Universality indicators, was moderated by Mr Moez Chakchouk, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO.
Mr David Souter, UNESCO commissioned author of Internet Universality Indicators, presented the Internet Universality development indicators. Souter explained that the purpose of the framework is to help governments to (a) develop an understanding of the national Internet environment; (b) assess how well national environments conform with the UNESCO ROAM principles; and (c) develop policy approaches and practice interventions that will enable national governments and communities to meet these goals. Soutter addressed the challenges in implementing indicators and announced that to facilitate these difficulties UNESCO will issue an implementation guide.
Mr Enrico Calandro, Research Manager, Research ICT Africa (South Africa), presented the results of the indicator pilot study in Nigeria and Senegal. The pilot study in both places highlighted the (a) difficulties in creating advanced analytics required by UNESCO; (b) lack of information; and (c) unwillingness of state officials to cooperate with the initiative. Calandro offered several recommendations such as creating a separate entity in charge of gathering data, involving the government and the public sector from the onset and reducing the number of indicators, especially in the developing countries.
Mr Alexandre Barbosa, Head of the Center of Studies for Information and Communications Technologies (CETIC.br), highlighted the relevance of ROAM framework and the indicators for understanding and measuring the Internet environment in a given state. He underlined the importance of this exercise for policy makers, civil society organisations, academia, and for society.
Mr João Brant, Ex Executive Secretary of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture and External Consultant for the Pre-testing and Piloting of UNESCO’s Internet Universality Indicators framework in Brazil (Brazil), presented the following conclusions based on a Brazil pilot study: strengthening the work with state institutions and agencies, using experts (individuals and organisations) as sources, and getting civil society, academia, and the private sector involved in the process. Brant also referred to challenges experienced in the work, such as recognising researcher bias, defining accurately the scope of the work, and dealing the absence of sources and data available.
Ms Pirongrong Ramasoota, Vice-President of Chulalongkorn University, Member of the Content Board, Broadcast Section, National Broadcasting and Telecommunications (Thailand), raised issues for UNESCO to consider in the future based on the pilot study in Thailand: combining qualitative and quantitative research methods, improving the coherence of the measured variables, adding a section of a few essential questions and issues, and defining the shelf life of the assessments for each question.
Ms Silvia Grundmann, Head of Media and Internet Division and Secretary to CDMSI, Council of Europe, addressed the need for using UNESCO Internet universality indicators in conjunction with the Council of Europe Internet freedom recommendations. The Council of Europe’s recommendations are based on the law of the European court for human rights and UNESCO indicators are very much complementary. Grundmann plans to present the UNESCO initiative to the Council of Europe in November and will invite the members of the Council to consider implementation of the indicators, together with UNESCO representatives.
In her closing remarks, Ms Albana Shala, Chair of UNESCO's International Program for Development of Communication (IPDC) Council, UNESCO, underlined the importance of planning for the future when making Internet policy decisions. Shala explained that the indicators can be used by governments to improve the situation of the Internet within their countries. According to Shala, next week the indicators and the pilot results will be discussed in IPDC and hopefully the member states will agree to endorse these indicators so that more member states will be willing to test the indicators.
The second part of the session was moderated by Mr Guy Berger, UNESCO Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, who launched officially UNESCO’s publication Journalism, Fake News and Misinformation: Model Course for Journalism Educators and Trainers written by Ms Julie Posetti, Senior Research Fellow, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford (England).
Posetti criticised the use of the phrase ‘fake news’ and instead suggested misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information. Posetti explained that the book is aimed at students, journalists, and policy makers to provide them with assessment and verification skills. She addressed the importance of strengthening quality journalism and ethical journalism practice and urged the Internet governance community to consider the possible implications of Internet regulation policy on freedom of speech and independent journalism.
By Efrat Daskal