AmCham Bulgaria Supported Media Literacy Conference 2020

For 25 years now AmCham Bulgaria is dedicated to the investment climate improvement, rule of law, promotion of digitalization, as well as to advocacy on behalf of sectors and its members. Such broad priorities often reach public at large. For the sake of sustainable development of the Bulgarian economy, such messages should be decoded by a qualified audience and should not be distorted. 

So, media literacy is vital for the development of a stronger society, and also for an entrepreneurial community, business ethics, innovations, science and facts driven economy, as well as for democracy.

The national conference “Media Literacy in Bulgaria. What We Learned from the Crisis”, organized by the Media Literacy Coalition and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, took place on October 29, 2020, in Sofia.

Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Culture, Active Citizens Fund, American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria (AmCham Bulgaria), German-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (AHK Bulgarien), Bulgarian Association of Software Companies (BASSCOM), Branch Association of Bulgarian Telecommunications Operators (BABTO) and the Bulgarian Public Relations Association (BDVO) supported the event, with most of the organizations and the two ministries joining the forum with their representatives.

The event was held as part of the Global Media and Information Literacy Week and is the only one that puts Bulgaria on the map of the worldwide initiative. It was also in support of and supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’ Freedom Fights Fake campaign.

The conference was held live in Sofia Event Center, but without an audience due to the restrictions imposed by the Order of the Minister of Health for holding congress-conference events. The forum was streamed live on the Facebook page of the Media Literacy Coalition and widely covered in the country’s media.

AmCham Bulgaria presents overview of the event, as well as remarks from the ad-hoc focus-group from the Communication and CSR Working Group of the Chamber.


Opening

Kristina Hristova, the Chair of the Media Literacy Coalition, and Martin Kotee, Regional Director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom for Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, opened the conference with key speeches on the importance of media literacy and the significance of the conference as the first forum of its kind where all stakeholders can exchange ideas, good practices and identify areas in which they can work together for the media literacy development of the Bulgarian citizens of all ages.

“This conference is a success already and this success belongs to you. This conference brings together people that don’t usually speak with each other. The teachers, the journalists, the politicians, administration experts, business people, NGOs, industry association and civil society groups. Bringing together such an eclectic group is something special“, Mr. Kotee addressed the participants and guests. “We are here ready to learn each other’s language, so to speak. And we are doing something that became a rarity these days – we aim to understand what motivates and drives people that are operating in a world, different from our owns. This alone makes it special.”

Watch Mr Kotee’s full speech on this link. Here you can watch the opening speech of Ms. Kristina Hristova.

Prevented from physically attending the event at the Sofia Event Center H.E. Hero Mustafa, U.S. Ambassador took part and delivered an influential and important speech via Zoom while being quarantined in the Embassy in Sofia. See her entire address on this link.

“I salute each and everyone of you for coming together today, for coming together to strengthen misinformation. In doing this, you make Bulgaria stronger, and we stand with you in this effort.

We are partners as I always say – your strength is our strength. And we look forward to future cooperation with you and all other Bulgarians who share this goal. We are stronger together. And together we can make a difference, ” said the Ambassador.


After having officially supported the Media Literacy Days 2020 campaign, the two ministries that develop media literacy policies – the education and science one and the Ministry of culture – sent representatives to the conference. The Minister of Culture Boil Banov, represented by the expert from the Ministry Axenia Boneva (watch the full speech here) , and the Deputy Minister of Education and ScienceDr. Petar Nikolov – took part in the opening panel of the conference.

“It is extremely important for the Ministry of Education and Science to invest great efforts in creating a generation in Bulgaria that will not fall victim to one or another manipulation tomorrow, a generation that can distinguish the right from the wrong and can make conscious, reasonable, meaningful choice. For this reason, all of you who are committed to the cause will have our full support”, declared the Deputy Minister of Education and Science Dr. Petar Nikolov in his speech, after expressing regret on behalf of Minister Krassimir Valchev that has been unable to attend in person.

Dr. Jane Muita UNICEF Representative for Bulgaria also took part of the opening speeches where she emphasized: “Media literacy can no longer just be a soft skill. It has to be an essential skill and even more it has to be urgent one because even as the ambassador said this morning critical thinking will be required for us to build resistance to fake news”.

The Moldovan diplomat and lecturer at the Technical University of Tallinn, Victor Guzun, presented Estonia’s achievements in digital transformation and innovation, in particular in the field of e-government and education. Mr Guzun made his presentation from a distance – live from the Estonian capital.

Ms. Antoaneta Vassileva (Association Parents) presented the results of the MLC surveys on the distance learning and media literacy, Ms. Irina Nedeva (AEJ Bulgaria) presented the disinformation spreading during the crisis and Ms. Axenia Boneva (Ministry of Culture) took part in this panel too on the topic “Media literacy in EU policies and support programs”.


Panel Overview: “The Business Point of View”

Family photo of the panelists and organizers: Martin Kotee, Regional Director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom for Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, Daniel Kiryakov from AmCham Bulgaria, Simeon Predov from Shkolo.bg, Antoaneta Vasileva, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Veselin Dimitrov from Forbes Bulgaria (Moderator), Dilyana Stoyanova from AHK Bulgarien / Unicredit Bulbank, Petya Dyulgerova, Executive Director, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Petar Rizov from BABTO / NET1 and Bistra Papazova from BASSCOM (not present, via Zoom)

They all deep-dived in a discussion about the intersection between the interests and goals of businesses, the criteria by which they choose the beneficiaries of their programs for social corporate responsibility, and the mission of organizations developing projects in the field. Full panel discussion is available in the video bellow.


Dilyana Stoyanova from AHK Bulgarien / Unicredit Bulbank

“[…] Аs part of the media literacy, companies accept the following components – transparency of communication, communication of real facts, effective feedback and building trust in audiences. […]”

“[…] When financing initiatives in the field of partnerships, it is important for the brand and for the company to identify itself with these projects, which makes it even more important who carries out the initiatives – the organization must be transparent, without corruption.”


Daniel Kiryakov from AmCham Bulgaria

“Contrary to previous statements, I believe that if a media literacy study has economic measures of what damage it imposes through false news and misinformation or interpretations, it would be useful and companies would pay attention to it.

Daniel also answered a question regarding how to build and develop a brand. He said that we are in an environment where we can not ignore the facts and we must pay attention to them without hesitation, at the same time we must step out of our comfort zone and include in our priorities similar initiatives.

“Thanks to that partnership the topic of media literacy has been noticed by many people. I turned to our PR working group in AmCham with the question – what did we learn from the crisis regarding media literacy. There were two directions in the opinions, the media on the one hand- who owns them, what motivates them to publish certain information, and on the other hand – our behavior as consumers – parents and children and how we influence sharing fake news.”

“It is good for the NGOs that structure the projects to know what the specific needs of the businesses are and at the same time what benefit they would provide. The most important thing is the presence of critical thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and vision and patience.” said the Communications Manager of AmCham Bulgaria.


Simeon Predov from Shkolo.bg said:

“Practice shows that in the education system there are many organizations that want to teach the teachers new skills and knowledge that must be passed on to students and then to reach the parents. This communication process must involve both teachers and parents. It is important because the parents were the missing link until now, which changed after the active digitalization. “

Watch the full video of the panel “From a business point of view”


AmCham Bulgaria members on Media Literacy

Prior the conference members of the Communication and CSR Working Group were involved in ad-hoc focus-group by asking to answer 3 questions regarding Media Literacy and the change that they had to manage or adapt due to COVID-19.

What does Media Literacy mean to you?

Dimitar Naydenov, Corporate Affairs Manager at JTI Bulgaria defines Media literacy as the opportunity to navigate the information in the public space, but according to him this is a progressively difficult task nowadays.

Steliyana Kasabova, Corporate Affairs Manager at Kamenitza Brewery said that there is two side of Media literacy:

“The first one is to what extent the media can cover and present the specific situation. It is very important if the media manage to stay objective, free, reasonable and adequate. My second interpretation is more related to the Media literacy as a skill, which should be inherent to all communicators – starting with communication and building sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships with the media. “

Nevena Dimitrova, Communications and CSR Officer at ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 also shared her opinion:

“I would rather call it media “wisdom”, because in this sea of information it is the ability to choose wisely. First you have to choose reliable media channels and second – to be able to rethink and analyze the information no matter how trustful that source is, it is important to “read between the lines” sometimes.”


What are the most important things that you as professionals learn from the Covid-19 crisis?

Steliyana Kasabova, Corporate Affairs Manager at Kamenitza Brewery said she learned five elements important for managing the crisis situation:

Always put people first. In situations like this communication is all and it must be clear, accurate, timely, regular. It is important to act as a team, because this is not an “individual” crisis. To give the necessary support and guidance to employees and to leaders because they need to cope both physically and mentally in this environment and to lead their teams. An interesting fact according to the Edelman’s research is that employees see their employer as the most reliable source of information, after the experts in the specific field. “

Ivaylo Chakarov, Country Manager at JDE Bulgaria shared the knowledge from his professional experience and how he is trying to communicate extremely clear and only on the basis of facts for both internal and external communications. He is very careful not to speculate with Covid topics because it can affects on the personal or professional plan of his team. He believes that there is a significant difference to plan a development scenario and to speculate with it.

Tomi NaplatanovPR Manager “Communications” at Assarel-Medet said:

“То оrganiz some social events and то demonstratе a responsible behavior is important and well received even if it is at the minimum. Total abdication creates a feeling of weakness and fear. It’s good for the business to show its existence to the audiences. The moment is good for communication with young people “in their field” – through the possibilities of new technologies, in more understandable language and with simpler and more attractive messages.

Internal communication is extremely important, and it has to tell the truth. It is useful to give clear information and signs that the company is in good condition, that there is no financial or any other danger.”


What your companies learn from the crisis?

Dimitar Naydenov, Corporate Affairs Manager at JTI Bulgaria believes that all companies have learned that they need to be flexible and to value their organizational culture and climate.

Vassilena Vizeva, Communications Manager at GSK Bulgaria answer the question what her company learn from the crisis in two main points:

  • There is a possibility in any crisis and in order to see it you should look beyond it – the “big picture”, the long-term vision for development always make the difference and create a positive outcome;
  • Be prepared for any crisis in order to give confidence to your team. And something that applies to every situation – the right people should be in the right places – this ensures minimal disruption of the business processes.

Nevena Dimitrova, Communications and CSR Officer at ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 said:

“The lessons are so many, but I think the most tangible is that flexibility in critical situations is the key.”

Ivo Altanov, Managing Director at Noble Graphics shared his opinion which is part of their survey results that at the moment it is extremely important to share experience and be as useful as possible not only for our customers, but also for the industry and society.