Media literacy refers to the ability to think objectively about the information a person comes into contact with through general media and, increasingly, social media. It is a common goal of the government and civil society organisations to bring this knowledge to the Cambodian people, especially the young, who are more active on social media platforms.

In Cambodia, the number of social media users increased significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic. These increases have aligned with a greater amount of false or misleading content being shared and treated as factual news, which has led to frequent confusion.

For this reason, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport is working closely with NGOs to strengthen media literacy. In cooperation with the DW Akademie project, they are training teachers to educate high school students about this issue.

“We have not only trained university students. We have also trained high school students. Even at that age, they are able to grasp the importance of media literacy,” said Seng Sineth, deputy director of the Information Technology Department of the ministry.

Textbooks were issued to facilitate teaching and learning at the basic level and the department has established web content which can share content related to media literacy.

However, as the students are obligated to devote most of their energy to preparing for exams, they are often unable to develop their analytical skills to the level required.

UNESCO in Cambodia has also done a lot of work to spread this knowledge. One of it programmes – in collaboration with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications – provides education that helps Cambodians learn to research and identify data which may be inaccurate.

Sor Chandara, project manager for DW Akademie Cambodia, has been working on this issue for many years. He said success will require the participation of the public.

“We do not put pressure on anyone or apportion blame, but we need to join together to prevent the spread of misleading information,” he added.

He shared some techniques that the public could employ to avoid falling victim to fake content.

“They should check the title, date and location of a story. They should also monitor a credible media outlet to see if the same information is being shared,” he said.

He added that if it is a big story, larger media companies will also be covering it. If they are not, then the chance of the original piece being untrue becomes higher.

He said that all members of the public have a part to play in preventing the circulation of fake news.

By working together on media literacy, both civil society organisations and the government hoped that more people would be involved in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the fourth mandate.

A joint forum on media literacy was organised by UNESCO in Cambodia in collaboration with the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s Department of Media and Communication on November 4.