Amid issues on disinformation, UP Journ department launches project on media literacy

The University of the Philippines (UP) Journalism Department has officially launched its Media and Information Literacy (MIL) project featuring a series of educational video materials aimed to counter false information online.

In a hybrid event at the UP College of Mass Communication on Friday, Oct. 6, department chair and broadcast journalist Kara David revealed that the video series will consist of 10 episodes discussing disinformation, fact-checking tools, and journalism basics, among others.

Described as the “patient zero” of modern disinformation, the Philippines has seen an upward trend in the growth of digital false information operations since the 2016 national polls, wherein former President Rodrigo Duterte won by a landslide.

More recently, a Social Weathers Station survey in December 2021 revealed that 51% of Filipinos struggle to spot fake news in social media, television and radio.

“Sa level ng technology ngayon kahit ako aminado nagkakamali ako, at minsan kahit ang mainstream midya at legitimate journalists nagiging biktima rin ng disinformation,” David said during the launching of the MIL project.

Several well-known television broadcasters came together to host the video series including GMA’s Kara David, Atom Araullo, Howie Severino, Ivan Mayrina, Connie Sison and Mariz Umali, as well as ABS-CBN’s Jeff Canoy, Karmina Constantino and Zen Hernandez.

“For the longest time alam naman natin parang kanya-kanya ang mga networks at news organizations. And for years, kapag pinag-uusapan paano lalabanan ang ‘fake news’ laging sinasabi ang collaboration. And now we finally get to see it [through] this project,” Jeff Canoy said during the panel discussion of the program.

Designed to address the gaps in the current MIL curriculum, the video series will be supplemented with a teaching module that will include guides on the use of the audiovisual materials, suggested class activities and other learning resources.

David said it was through focus group discussions with students and senior high school teachers that they found out how “heavy” and “complicated” the current MIL curriculum is.

It lacks focus and tries to squeeze in a lot of information in one semester. Maganda ang layunin pero masyadong marami . . . and it is not well adapted in the current Philippine setting,” David said about the “62-page curriculum” of MIL.

At present, MIL is only being taught as a required subject in senior high school students across all strands.

Moreover, David also noted that some instructors assigned to teach MIL are not properly trained for the demands of the subject.

Ang mga nagtuturo ng MIL minsan English at Information Technology teachers. Basically yung mga kailangan ng teaching load. The willingness to teach and learn is there pero ang problema kailangan nila ng resources at training dahil hindi naman nila ito expertise in the first place,” David added. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Portia Padilla from the UP College of Education pointed out that the learning gaps in the students’ basic competencies exacerbated the issue of poor literacy on media and information.

Kapag sinama mo ‘yung learning crisis na nakaugat sa problema ng pagbabasa at pag-unawa, [sa] information crisis, lalong mahihirapan ‘yung ating mga kaguruan sa basic education kahit pa senior high school na ‘yan,” Padilla said. 

A learning poverty report by the World Bank showed that 90.9% of Filipinos at age 10 struggle with reading and writing simple texts. Padilla says this is also true to some students that are already in high school.

Amid the rise of disinformation in video-sharing apps like Tiktok, Canoy also highlighted the importance of penetrating other platforms and “going where the audience is.”

A 2023 report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism showed that more people are turning to Tiktok as their source of news due to the appeal of celebrities, influencers and social media personalities.

Further, a previous study from a US-based online misinformation tracker found that 20% of news-related search results on Tiktok were misleading.

READ: From one generation to another: Students succumb to disinformation as result of PH history education dearth

I think it’s very important even for us [journalists] to listen and decide . . . If we are here to give information, bakit ayaw nating pasukin itong mga mundong ito?” Canoy said.

At least 23 UP students of the Journalism 104 (Pag-uulat sa Filipino) class under assistant professor Kara David contributed as script writers for the video series. 

The MIL project was produced under the five-year program by Internews called the “Initiative for Media Freedom,” with financial help from the the US Agency for International Development.

According to David, the videos will be uploaded biweekly on the UP Journalism Department’s official YouTube channel.