Remarks by Ambassador William W. Popp at the Launch of Media Literacy for Young Journalists Project – MCI Media Hub

Launch of Media Literacy for Young Journalists Project MCI Media Hub, Kabalagala, Rooftop of Tirupati Mazima Mall, Friday, October 27, 2023

  • Media Development Partners, 
  • Media Challenge Initiative Team,
  • Distinguished Guests,
  • All protocols observed.

Good afternoon! I am delighted to be here today with you as we launch the Media Literacy for Young Journalists Project. 

We gather here not just to commemorate the start of this project but also to acknowledge and address a global challenge: the spread of mis- and disinformation.   

Both are potent weapons that can sway opinions toward falsehoods, incite unrest, prevent people from seeking treatment for curable diseases, and mislead even the most discerning minds. 

We stand at the crossroads of a digital age, where information travels faster than light, whether that information be truth or fiction, helpful or unhelpful, straightforward or manipulative. 

For this reason, the U.S. government is proud to support this important effort today–how to build a media literate public and how to combat the mis- and dis-information that plague our societies. 

In a world overflowing with data, distinguishing genuine information from falsehoods has become an essential skill, one that every citizen should possess, but most crucially journalists. 

While it’s true that trust in the media has seemingly declined in recent years, the media still play a crucial role in pursuing, communicating, and disseminating news.  

Media literacy is not just the ability to consume content; it is the proficiency to critically analyze that content, to ask the right questions, and to discern credible information from deceptive narratives. This goes beyond simple fact-checking; it’s about nurturing a culture of healthy skepticism, curiosity, and responsibility.

A free, fair, and responsible media is the cornerstone of any thriving democracy. It holds power to account, informs the public, and can drive positive change. But in a rapidly changing information ecosystem, it is paramount that our media professionals are equipped not just to report the news, but to critically analyze and discern the veracity of the information they encounter. 

And let’s be honest, this is incredibly hard to do in today’s world of non-stop information flow. 

Through the Media Literacy Program, we aim to: 

(1) Deepen the understanding of the difference between MISinformation, which is false information shared without harmful intent, and DISinformation, which is false information shared with the intent to deceive; 
(2) Equip journalists with techniques to critically evaluate sources, discern biased narratives, and recognize digital manipulations; and 
(3) Foster a commitment to journalistic integrity, emphasizing the responsibility that media professionals have in shaping public opinion and the potential consequences of spreading unverified information.

Moreover, to fortify our commitment to this cause, we are launching a state-of-the-art Debunk Fact Checking App designed to identify and debunk falsehoods. This app will serve not just as a fact-checking tool, but as an educational resource, promoting media literacy principles and helping users navigate the complex information landscape we find ourselves in today. Journalists and citizens alike can utilize this app to verify dubious claims, cross-check facts, and stay informed with evidence-based information.

The long-established partnership between the United States and Ugandan people has been built on mutual respect, shared values, and collaborative endeavors. 

By investing in media literacy, we are not just fortifying journalistic standards, we are strengthening the very foundations for democracy. 

For democracies to work well, citizens must have accurate information about candidates and elected leaders. Citizens must be informed when elected officials are engaging in corrupt practices affecting the quality of public services. Citizens must be able to trust public institutions.  

The truth is, informed publics are healthier, more prosperous, and more secure, and those are things every one of us desires. 

I wish to express my profound gratitude to our talented partners, the Media Challenge Initiative and everyone who has championed the cause of media literacy. Your dedication ensures that our shared vision of a well-informed, discerning, and empowered public becomes a reality.

The adage, often attributed to Mark Twain, that “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on” remains true. 

But with the right tools, education, and commitment, we can ensure that truth catches up and prevails. With that, I am pleased to launch the media literacy for Young Projects Project and Debunk- Fact Checking App. 

Thank you, and here’s to a brighter, more informed future for all.