MLFD Final Conference

The MLFD Final Conference was held online on March 19 and gathered representatives of civil society organisations, institutions, media, universities, as well as students and young professionals from different backgrounds. More than 120 citizens from 10 different countries across the EU have engaged in discussion on media literacy and the fight against disinformation.

The event had an educational and dissemination function and was an opportunity for interested parties to exchange ideas and compare initiatives and best practices across different EU countries.

During the project’s final conference, the MLFD Consortium presented its contribution to defining an inclusive European strategy to promote media literacy in the Member States, through a set of policy recommendations addressed to civil society, media workers and local and international institutions.

The discussion was structured around 3 sessions:

Keynote addresses

Diego López Garrido, Executive Vice President Fundación Alternativas, spoke on a media literacy strategy based on multidisciplinary approach. He underscored that such an approach is crucial for safeguarding democratic values in our increasingly digital society. He highlighted the importance of media literacy initiatives in empowering citizens to participate fully in democratic processes. By equipping individuals with the necessary skills to navigate today’s complex media landscape, these initiatives play a vital role in promoting informed citizenship and fostering a healthy democratic society.

Professor Olena Goroshko, National Technical University (Ukraine), shed light on the insidious tactics employed by Russia to spread disinformation about the Ukraine-Russia war, emphasizing the blurring of truth and propaganda. She highlighted Russia’s use of manipulative techniques and social networks to advance its agenda, particularly through the dissemination of fake news via main Russian broadcasters like RT, TASS, and Sputnik. In addition, she underscored the importance of recognizing Russia’s hybrid war tactics, which have been ongoing since 2014, and their detrimental impact on democratic values. Efforts such as “Vox Ukraine” were mentioned as vital initiatives aimed at combating disinformation and fostering critical thinking among citizens to protect democratic principles. Goroshko’s insights underscored the urgent need for robust media literacy strategies to counter the spread of false narratives and uphold the integrity of democratic societies.

Eugenia de la Rosa, Press Officer at the Representation of the European Commission in Spain, emphasized the importance of community involvement in fostering democratic cohesion. She outlined the EU Commission’s multidisciplinary approach to combatting disinformation, highlighting cooperation with Member States and robust monitoring mechanisms. Regulatory frameworks such as the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation and the Digital Services Act were underscored as crucial tools in addressing systemic risks. Collaboration with online actors and platforms, including initiatives like the European Digital Media Observatory, was also emphasized. Additionally, legislative measures, such as the Media Freedom Act, were highlighted for their role in supporting journalistic integrity and combating fake content. De la Rosa’s remarked the EU’s commitment to collective action and comprehensive strategies in upholding democratic principles.

MLFD overview and results

Eleonora Mongelli, Vice President of FIDU and MLFD coordinator (Italy), introduced the project, its activities, results and methodology. She underlined the importance of the multidisciplinary approach and the cross sectoral cooperation when addressing the issue of disinformation. Mongelli underscored the critical role of a free and independent press, the rule of law, and equality in safeguarding democracy against malign interference, incl. disinformation. She emphasized the necessity of a cooperation involving various stakeholders, including media workers, journalists, academics, human rights experts, and civil society. Mongelli highlighted the Media Literacy for Democracy project’s efforts to empower citizens, incl. the most vulnerable, to make informed decisions and protect democratic values through a range of activities conducted from October 2022 to March 2024. These activities included stakeholder mapping, awareness campaigns, context analysis, local focus groups, and international workshops. She stressed the importance of tailored actions and a comprehensive understanding of EU policy to mitigate vulnerability to disinformation effectively, as a crucial component of the MLFD project’s policy recommendations.

Sara Singelton, Senior Researcher Social Inclusion at TASC (Ireland), highlighted the lack of comprehensive norms and regulations regarding media literacy and disinformation. While some efforts were made in 2016, they have not been sufficient. Singleton stressed the need for improved media literacy campaigns, especially in schools, to empower young people to critically evaluate information. She also pointed out the digital divide in rural areas, where internet access is limited. Furthermore, she expressed concerns regarding the growing threat of emerging phenomena like deep fakes, which are often linked to artificial intelligence, advocating for proactive measures to mitigate these risks. Overall, Singleton underscored the urgency of addressing disinformation to cultivate a more knowledgeable and discerning society in Ireland.

Svilena Kostadinova, Communication Officer of FECE (Bulgaria), shared insights from the local focus group in Bulgaria, which convened to confront the adverse effects of disinformation. A crucial takeaway was the necessity for enhanced media literacy among students. Participants suggested organizing workshops to facilitate the exchange of strategies for navigating media and online content proficiently. Key recommendations included incorporating critical thinking skills and fact-checking techniques into educational curricula. The importance of collaboration among experts, media institutions, and EU citizens emerged as a central theme in the fight against misinformation and disinformation. Overall, the focus was on empowering individuals to discern credible sources and mitigate the detrimental impacts of disinformation on society.

Maria Rachinska, Manager of FECE (Bulgaria), introduced the MLFD Booklet, which serves as a crucial resource in informing citizens of the negative impact of disinformation on democratic societies and the importance of media literacy to build the capacity of citizens to adapt to the digital era. The content of the Booklet was used as part of the training materials for the Focus Groups and the international workshops conducted by the Consortium during the project implementation. Furthermore, Rachinska emphasized the importance of fact-checking at the community level, urging individuals to verify content, sources, authors, and images before sharing. She also underscored the crucial role of civil society in promoting these skills, upholding the core EU values, such as democracy, equality, the rule of law, and human rights.

Ramón Ruiz, Chair of Philosophy of Law, University of Jaén (Spain), spoke about the impact of misinformation on democratic systems, public health, and societal cohesion. He emphasized the critical role of media literacy in distinguishing between true and false content, thereby preventing the unwitting dissemination of misinformation. While institutions and social networks have made efforts to combat fake news, complete eradication remains elusive, necessitating media literacy as the primary defense mechanism. Ruiz highlighted the importance of education, particularly among youth, in combating misinformation and fostering critical thinking skills. Within the EU, Spain has made strides in establishing effective procedures to combat mis- and disinformation and promote digital literacy, with notable progress in reducing the digital gender gap. However, he stressed the imperative of ensuring equal access to digital skills across all demographic groups to facilitate informed and active participation in democratic society.

Maria Ochwat, Faculty of Social Sciences at Uniwersytet Szczeciński (Poland), highlighted the importance of a comprehensive approach to combat disinformation. She shed light on the widespread confusion surrounding the concept of disinformation in Poland and its far-reaching impact on various sectors such as politics, psychology, economics, and healthcare. Ochwat emphasized the urgent need for increased multidisciplinary research in social sciences, law, and medicine to effectively address the evolving challenges posed by disinformation. Furthermore, she advocated for clear and understandable communication of information, recommending inclusive education initiatives spanning all segments of society. She proposed equipping teachers with the necessary skills to navigate the rapidly changing media landscape and suggested the development of accessible tools available in multiple languages to aid individuals of all ages in acquiring and interpreting information effectively.

Expert roundtable and open discussion

The third part of the conference was an open table with Victor Ventura (PhD Researcher at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos), Coral Garcia (International Alliances Officer at and Gianmarco Passerini (Luiss Data lab content creator), based on different issues around media literacy in the EU and disinformation in the context of the upcoming European elections.

Download here the Event Description Sheet