“Covid-19: Addressing the influence of disinformation and conspiracy theories through media and information literacy” is the latest study completed by Albanian Media Institute, authored by Erlis Cela, professor of journalism and communication at Beder University. The study aims to identify and analyze the range of problems related to media and information literacy against the background of spread of fake news, disinformation, and conspiracy theories in Albanian media during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first part of the study focuses on the findings derived from monitoring a sample of audiovisual and online media on the coverage of the pandemic. The second part of the publication analyzes the situation with the media and information literacy in Albania and discusses the specific approaches that can be made in order to address the problems encountered by disinformation efforts. The publication is part of a project that AMI has implemented with the support of the Audiovisual Media Authority.
The findings of the study and the different options towards media literacy were discussed on November 11 in a roundtable organized with journalists, media experts, and civil society representatives. Erlis Cela, the author of the study, presented an overview on the disinformation context in the country in terms of spread of conspiracy theories on the pandemic, providing also theoretical and empirical explanations on why and how conspiracy theories are spread. He specifically explained the main narratives and discourses related to conspiracy theories on the pandemic, their degree of dissemination, and the factors that assist to quick spread of such disinformation. The potential approaches to fighting conspiracy theories through education or other means were also discussed, aiming at improving immunization of audiences through media and information literacy.
Irena Myzeqari, professor of journalism and communication, provided her own experience and viewpoint on media and information literacy as a slow, but sustainable instrument in the fight against disinformation. She also employed a multi-layered approach in explaining and discussing the spread of conspiracy theories in different societies, focuses on anthropological, cultural, and historical background that tend to favor a more rapid spread of conspiracies and fake news. Furthermore, the technological changes, the role of algorithms, and the loss or weakening of filters of information for the public were discussed, along with the changing role of journalists and authority of the media. The participants discussed their own challenges in reporting the pandemics and different ways to approach the problem and educate the public.