The rapid increase and improvement of internet connectivity, and number of people owning a smart phone in Bangladesh, is a positive development, but it also brings new challenges. Syed Kamrul Hasan, Deputy Director at SACMID, says: “We saw that great numbers of people, mostly the youth, entered social media platforms, and started to share and create uncontrolled content that incited hatred, and social and religious conflicts.” He continues: “These messages increased fundamentalism, and even caused deathly feuds between parties. This exposes a serious lack in handling media safely, rationally and positively.”
To improve the way the youth handles media and news, SACMID creates sample media lessons in which students learn how to distinguish facts from fake news and propaganda, and how to find information that is important to them online. Last year SACMID booked some concrete results on systematically improving media literacy in Bangladesh. SACMID created Media and Information Literacy clubs in ten schools, and also trained teachers in how to address this subject. Besides only focusing on the youth, SACMID also introduced a media literacy course for social leaders that hold positions of influence in the community. This way they can transfer this knowledge to youth that follows them, and they will share less unreliable news themselves.
To make a difference on the long-term, it was an important goal for SACMID to create a place for media literacy in the educational system. Hasan: “We knew that a new curriculum was going to be introduced in 2021, so we have spent the years before that, starting in 2018, on advocacy to make the policy makers aware of the importance of integrating media literacy in the new curriculum.” SACMID’s work has paid off, now that media literacy has officially been included in the new curriculum.
SACMID is now working together with the NCTB (National Curriculum and Textbook Board) on giving substance to the media literacy part of the curriculum, and designing the teaching material.
Free Press Unlimited has supported SACMID with knowledge and funding since it was founded in 2016. In recent years, Free Press Unlimited acted as a coach in the field of media development and media literacy. The partnership aims to make SACMID more independent by supporting them in developing a strategy to recruit multiple donors.