Croatia: Librarians as key actors in fight for truth


Just a minute after my opening line in the first Croatian workshop for librarians on propaganda and fake news, held in Zagreb last month, the words “nazism” and “Hitler” appeared on the large screen as the first associations on PROPAGANDA. I was surprised.

By Igor Kanižaj, Association for Communication and Media Culture (DKMK)

But in the same time I had an impression that most of them sitting in front of me felt the same way. It was a must to have exhaustive discussion when we realized that our primary association on propaganda is still connected with 75 years old memories… But as the minutes went by it was getting more and more interesting. At the end word cloud has revealed that librarians’ ideas of propaganda in Croatia are mostly connected with “politics”, “manipulation” and “advertising”. And even if they were still not aware of it, the whole workshop was planned and based on propaganda analysis exactly in politics, advertising and fake news as the last phenomenon.

The workshop has been developed by Association for Communication and Media Culture (DKMK) within MIND OVER MEDIA EU project and in cooperation with Croatian Teacher and Training Agency for 54 librarians from several Croatian counties.

In the first part of our workshop we were starting to get familiar with definitions of propaganda discussing the challenges we have with every definition we find. In just 120 minutes we have taken propaganda framework from WW2 to new contemporary examples. Our idea was to prepare them to find and discuss their own definitions of propaganda and here are the most interesting ones we got:

  • “Propaganda is strategic and planned, based on lies and/or truth, effecting our emotions and attitudes of individuals but of society in general as well”
  • “The way of convincing public in ideological, political or commercial purposes with goal to influence emotions, attitudes and thinking”
  • “Thoughtful manipulation with messages for a specific purpose”

I was happy to see how they challenged the list of seven different propaganda definitions listed in our curricula and built a new one in just a few minutes. Their pair work helped them exchange their ideas but also to become aware of stereotypes on propaganda. It was so interesting to see how 54 librarians from different Croatian counties have the same approach to propaganda.

In the evaluation we’ve found out that all participants would recommend this workshop to colleagues and almost every participant agreed with the statement that after they’ve tried to use the platform they think it’s even more important to teach about propaganda. Furthermore, great majority of librarians thinks that teaching about propaganda should be a part of curricula in Croatia. And indeed, although we are in the middle of curricula reform with “experimental” program, the importance of propaganda hasn’t been recognized and pupils in Croatia don’t have any possibility to teach about propaganda beside our MIND OVER MEDIA program. Nor do the teachers.

In the evaluation sheet we’ve asked them to list a few takeaways and here is what they said:

  • „I’m getting more assured that this kind of course is expected to be in our curricula“
  • „I have to teach my students how important it is to teach about propaganda“
  • „I’ve found a hope. There are still people trying to analyze fake news“
  • „From now on I will analyze every news report I find in media“
  • „I could use this in my private and professional life”

We are ought to pay more educational attention to librarians as the key actors in our school system. They were the first ones fighting for truthfulness and information literacy for so many years in most of our societies. For most of the time working humble in their libraries and waiting to be asked for advice or some research hint. But they have become one of the key stakeholders in this crazy fight for truth, credibility and impartiality. Without them most of our knowledge and search for information would fail…

#medialiteracy #fakenews #djecamedija #propagandaanalysis #mindovermedia #education

This article was originally written for Mind over Media in EU, a project co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – MediaLiteracy For All Grant agreement no LC-00644630.