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Alexander Fedorov on Challenges for Media Education in Today’s World

Since receiving Unesco’s Global Media and Information Literacy Award in 2019, the Russian academic and journalist Alexander Fedorov has become widely known as a prominent international expert this field.

Fedorov is the editor-in-chief of the Russian scholarly journal Media Education and is the author or co-author of numerous publications on media literacy education, including the 2008 book “On Media Education”, published by Unesco.

Al-Fanar Media also recognises the importance of media education, and is currently involved in a project supported by the Ford Foundation aimed at promoting media literacy among university students in the Arab world.

In an interview with Al-Fanar Media, Fedorov talked about the challenges facing media education in today’s world, including how to keep up with the rapid and complex developments in information and communication technology, as well as the proliferation of “fake news”, disinformation and misinformation directed at the general public at a time of conflicts, wars, and political divisions around the globe.

Challenges for Media Education

Alexander Fedorov’s personal experience in media education goes back more than 40 years. After studying film at school and university, he entered graduate school at the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences in Moscow, where he completed his Ph.D. in 1986. At that time, the term “media education” was unfamiliar to many academics, known mainly through Unesco documents. When Fedorov began teaching the concept at the university, “at first I had to tell professors and students about this term and its importance and necessity for society,” he said.

In today’s world, media education faces a different, more serious set of challenges, he said. “People without media literacy often fall victim to media manipulation and fake news, of which there are more and more,” he said. “In addition, sad to say, some media educators are trying to use the tools of media education in ideological and information wars.”

Asked about potential solutions, he mentioned the many media education technologies that media educators from different countries are now offering, with Unesco’s support. “The best of them, in my opinion, can be used practically in all countries of the world.”

Effects of Technology

The double-edged nature of technological development adds another dimension for media education.

“Modern technology has a very strong impact,” Fedorov said. “On the one hand, it provides new opportunities for remote media education techniques and the exchange of scientific and business ideas. On the other hand, modern media technology poses a serious challenge to the process of media literacy, as the internet and other media sources have become increasingly tools for manipulation and fake news.”

Asked whether media education can mitigate the negative effects of disinformation campaigns, Fedorov said: “This is a very difficult question, because if media literacy were truly a magic wand against the negative effects of crises and conflicts, this negativity would have disappeared long ago. But this does not mean that we should abandon the humanitarian mission of media education. On the contrary, I am convinced that media education in all countries must become truly essential.”

That includes developing countries, where media literacy education may be considered more a luxury than a necessity. “This question would probably require a whole article,” he said. “But in brief, developing countries must take into consideration that in today’s world filled with media technology, traditional education is no longer enough. Rather, we need complete literacy in media skills and competence. It is difficult to imagine life in society today without media education.”

On the whole, Federov takes a positive view of media education going forward. “I am convinced that media education must be based on humanitarian ideals, the principles of understanding cultural diversity, promoting peaceful coexistence between countries with different forms of government, and at the same time resisting any forms of hostility” between countries and between racial, ethnic, or other cultural divisions.

Scholarship and Recognition

Alexander Fedorov has published dozens of monographs and hundreds of articles in scholarly journals in the field of media literacy education. He has presented research findings at academic conferences around the world, and has led media education projects with the support of foreign and Russian foundations.

Since 2005 Fedorov has been editor-in-chief of the journal Media Education, which is indexed in Web of Science Core Collection and is published quarterly, in English.

In 2019, he was among the recipients of Unesco’s prestigious Global Media and Information Literacy Award. This honour, given annually, recognises outstanding achievements and leadership in the field of information, media, and media culture. Recipients include researchers, educators, artists, activists, associations, and other teams who innovatively integrate media and information literacy into their work and related activities.

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