Media is the fastest and the most effective mean to convey the information. It is multifunctional and multidimensional: it develops and serves as a platform for dialogue between the government and the society, cooperates with civil society organizations which address the issues of public concern and contribute to social changes.
In parallel with the development and progression of democracy, the role of media has significantly increased. In contemporary world, media development is moving in several directions: due to the technological advancements, the geography of information dissemination and the audience has expanded thus becoming more comprehensive and accessible. The types of mass media have also been developed and diversified. In line with print media, TV and Radio, online media has emerged and developed thus enriching the media landscape with individual journalists, bloggers, civic journalist etc. However, those advancements in media sector have created risks of misinformation and media manipulation. Expansion of Internet and Social media fostered penetration of information flow into the society consequently creating necessity to educate the public and to develop new tools for checking and verifying the information.
As in the whole world, media sector in Armenia is also experiencing development while bringing new opportunities and challenges. Evolution of the Internet and Social Media created an opportunity to counterbalance subjective information with alternative content creation and production. Nonetheless, those opportunities contributed to dissemination and expansion of disinformation and fake news. Hence, the most effective means of counterbalancing disinformation are media literacy, critical thinking and production of quality media. In this regard, EPF has adopted two main approaches: capacity building of media organizations to produce high quality and objective media products, as well as equipping media consumers with skills and tools to be able to filter fake news and analyze. The main strategy and approach of these two directions is to support both media producer and consumer to avoid information manipulation.
For already 10 years, EPF has been working in media sector in Armenia. With the grants provided by EPF, media organizations and professional journalists have been producing and disseminating objective and alternative media content covering issues of public concern and importance. Simultaneously, EPF has developed new methods and tools to foster critical thinking skills among the media consumers.
EPF has traditionally been working in the following three areas since 2010 – a. developing citizen media activities (“I am the media”), b. supporting other professional media programs that would not have been implemented otherwise, c. being a source of media on the one hand and, on the other, to make the media in Armenia strong and capable “like EPF”, from an organizational point of view.
Multimedia production, fact checking, investigative journalism and data journalism, these are main topics that EPF and its partner Media Initiative Center support with their projects.
In order to encourage civic journalism, EPF has developed a unique network with the support of its partners in the marzes – the InfoTun system. These structures help citizens, particularly the youth, to become media sources, to develop their skills of performing meaningful work online and in social media, to learn media literacy and critical thinking, to use their citizen media activities to influence a more “bottom up” approach to their local self-governance, to address human rights and transparency issues, as well as to bring people together for implementing important, positive reforms.
The InfoTun system is complemented by the Mardamej annual Social Innovation Camp, where young people learn, via a special technique, being more creative and innovative, and develop innovative ideas to address the needs of their communities, which are then supported and turned into reality.
This system is reinforced by annual sessions of the Critical Thinking School, through which around forty young people from all over Armenia and Artsakh participate in active discussions and learn to discern information from fake over three days in Yerevan. Various types of schools are also organized in InfoTuns in the marzes. EPF is one of the pioneers of critical thinking development in Armenia – it has created several videos and recently published one important booklet8 on this topic․