Poynter to Support Bulgarian Media Literacy Efforts

October 30, 2023
Poynter to Support Bulgarian Media Literacy Efforts

MediaWise director Alex Mahadevan introduces the Poynter Insitute's new media literacy program, Be MediaWise, in Sofia, Bulgaria. (Brittani Kollar)

The Poynter Institute and its digital media literacy initiative, MediaWise, hosted an event Oct. 30 in Sofia, Bulgaria, to launch activities for a $900,000 grant supporting media literacy efforts in the Balkan nation.

This article was originally published on the Poynter. website.

The U.S. Department of State selected Poynter after a competitive process that demonstrated Poynter’s commitment and steadfast approach to editorial independence, its media literacy expertise and innovation, and the expertise of its Bulgarian media literacy partners.

“We’re honored and excited to work with media and community leaders in Bulgaria to give citizens the tools and the confidence to sort out fact from fiction online,” said Poynter President Neil Brown. “Our MediaWise team will offer effective and proven techniques to create a healthy information ecosystem. We appreciate the initiative of the U.S. State Department and are delighted to have dedicated partners in Bulgaria. Together we can fight misinformation and help people in their daily lives.”

The grant supports several projects, activities, Bulgarian partners and services. This two-year comprehensive program will support media literacy education for youth, adults, educators and hard-to-reach populations across Bulgaria, and will empower participants with skills to analyze, evaluate and safely engage in the information ecosystem. Poynter’s Bulgarian project partners are Teach for BulgariaPrepodavame.bgMediapool.bg, and the American University in Bulgaria. Primary components of the program include:

Poynter and its partners maintain all editorial control over the program.

During the launch event, which included the Bulgarian partners, media literacy experts, academics and officials from the U.S. and Bulgarian governments, Poynter unveiled the program and project activities.

“Media literacy allows people to harness the vast powers of the internet to their own benefit, to make more informed choices, and to take back power that has shifted into the hands of those trying to profit off the spread of misinformation, disinformation and propaganda,” MediaWise Director Alex Mahadevan said in his opening remarks. “By learning how to recognize a manipulated image, or an AI-generated deepfake; to understand how algorithms map out nearly every aspect of our digital existence; anyone in Bulgaria will shape their own decisions and existence, free from manipulation and online harms.”

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Elizabeth Allen also participated in the event, underscoring the U.S. government’s commitment to media literacy as a key component to healthy democracies saying, “programs like this are making the information space healthier.”

Two Bulgarian senior officials also spoke at the event, Minister of Culture Krastyu Krastev and Deputy Minister for Education and Science Natalia Miteva. Ms. Miteva spoke of the importance of the program being results focused and not just activity focused.

Leveraging lessons learned from MediaWise, Poynter designed the program using a number of evidence-based methods studied by academics worldwide. Research has shown each of the interventions to have a positive impact on people’s ability to distinguish true headlines from false ones after learning, or honing, media literacy skills. The studies took place in SpainBrazil and the United States, and all have since been published in peer-reviewed publications.

The program “will be a great opportunity for Mediapool.bg to share the experience of our team of journalists with the public, so that people can get a better perspective for the complex world of contemporary media,” Stoyana Georgieva, publisher and editor-in-chief of Mediapool.bg said via email.

The project runs until September 2025.