Media Education Workshop in Soroca. Young People of the Romani Ethnic Origin Are One Step Closer to Critical Thinking

23 Romani ethnic group representatives from the town of Soroca for the first time took part in a media education workshop organized by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) on March 10. During the event, the participants studied what media education is and how important it is to perceive critically what they watch on TV, hear on the radio, and read in print/online or social networks.

„After Ocnita, Criuleni, and Falesti, Soroca is the fourth destination where the IJC team holds thematic workshops on media literacy. The purpose of these meetings is to encourage the audience to become active media consumers, to ask questions about the information obtained via different channels, and to find out whether it is true, manipulative, or false,” Victoria Tataru, program coordinator (IJC), said during the opening of the event.

Speaking about disinformation and the related danger, media expert Diana Raileanu involved the young people in an interactive activity to show them how a message could often be distorted when a certain piece of information is “told” and “retold” and no longer originates from its initial source.

„The conclusion is that we should always search for the primary source, and if we cannot find it out, we should discuss it with several persons, especially if the subject causes polemics; we should find out who the author of the news we are reading is; we should ask ourselves from which source this information reached us. Nowadays, everyone is on social networks, and there are fake profiles which can write anything about anyone. You need to have critical thinking to understand if a particular piece of information is false or true,” Diana Raileanu said, explaining to the young people why critical thinking is regarded as a weapon against manipulation and disinformation.

„The press is supposed to spread information, not rumors or fakes! A correct, well-written news item always answers such questions as ‘Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?’ A correct news item is based on at least two independent sources which inform us instead of distorting the message. How do we stop fake information? It’s simple: by analyzing the source we get information from,” the expert added, answering many questions from the participants.

As to the journalist Natalia Vrancean, editor-in-chief of the regional publication “Ziarul nostru” from Soroca, she was also asked a number of questions. In particular, they referred to the image of the Romani ethnicity in the press and countering stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination against the Romani spread by the media. The journalist affirmed that, as a local who had been working in the press for many years, she had always tried to highlight the most impressive traditions, handicrafts, and things encountered among the Romani. “It’s not only the press that is supposed to change the stereotypes. Each of us is in charge of this change,” Natalia Vrancean said.

In this context, the journalist urged the participants not to believe the news as soon as they heard it and not to see it as the ultimate truth, but to think critically and to ask themselves: „Is this information true or false? Has anyone else written about it? Who is the author of the news?” “In the informational ocean, there is some reliable information, but there is also the information you need to think about. Information must be checked by using several independent sources. If you doubt what was said, it’s better not to share it not to mislead the others!” Natalia Vrancean warned.

Eager to communicate, the discussion participants were impressed and satisfied with what they heard during the media workshop.

Sofia Preda, 18 years old: „I mostly get information from TikTok and Instagram. As a rule, I used to assume that what I saw was true. From now on, I’ll be more skeptical about it – 50-50.”

Mihai Plesca, 14 years old: „I’m quite active on TikTok. I have over 12 000 followers. I like to post videos and comments. I feel very good in this sense. From today’s meeting, I learned a lot of things I didn’t know until now. I was mostly impressed by the way images could be altered. I didn’t think such a thing was possible.”

Said Farfacari, 19 years old: „My hobby is communicating with young people. I spend most of my time on Facebook. This is where I find out all the news. I like the fact that I’ve learned about fakes. I’ve learned how to distinguish fakes and not to spread the information which seems suspicious. I also believe we must be careful about the persons we communicate with, what we share, and which messages we spread. It’s hard to figure out what is on some users’ mind, so it’s better to stay away from them.”

Reveca Cudrean, 22 years old: „I’ve really enjoyed today’s lecture. I’ve always wondered whether the information spreading on social networks is true or false. I would like to take part in such discussions in the future.”

Stefan Preda, 29 years old: „I’ve really liked today’s meeting. I had lots of questions while watching TV with my parents or reading some posts on Facebook. I didn’t know if this information could be trusted. Now I will also follow the comments to the topics and search for some other sources not to be deceived.”

Steliana Imanverdievacommunity mediator, Soroca Town: „The Romani people need to be trained. We’re glad when such activities are held for young people and children. It’s a great joy when children manage to surpass their parents. I’ll also share the information I’ve learned today with the other kids and young people I interact with.”

The activity is part of the project „Building social cohesion in Moldova through promoting inclusion and diminishing discrimination” by the Independent Journalism Center as part of the program „Joint Initiative for Equal Opportunities – Phase II”, implemented from the resources provided by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

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