Freedom of expression and press freedom
What do we actually mean by press freedom and freedom of expression?
Below you will find a set pedagogical resources that will engage children and youth in classrooms or youth centers. These activities and worksheets will develop media awareness and critical thinking, as well as skills for analyzing and creating media.
This activity lets learners discover how much media they actually consume, and understand more about the role media plays in their life.
Preparations: Download the worksheet Media Diary. Copy or print.
1. Hand out copies of the Media Diary worksheet.
2. Tell the learners that they must track every bit of media use over the next 24 hours. Lead a brief discussion on what should be included in “media use” and put suggestions up on the board. It should include everything from listening to music, to playing games or passing a commercial billboard on the street.
3. When the media diaries are completed, each learner creates a diagram of her/his own media consumption. How many minutes and/or hours did they spend on different types of media content?
4. Finally, create a diagram of the average media consumption for the whole group.
5. Discuss the results
Ideas for questions to discuss
• Were they surprised by the amount of time you spent on media consumption?
• What type of media use is most popular and why?
• Which social media platforms are most popular?
• Where do most of them go to find news?
• Is there anything in their media consumption that they would like to change? If yes, how could they go about making those changes?
Download worksheet Media Diary
Preparation: Download the student worksheet Be the Censor and print/copy. (If you like, find examples of disinformation and propaganda from Tunisia or another country to be used in step 4.)
Censorship is the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are considered “offensive” or a threat and happens whenever and wherever some people manage in imposing their own political or moral values on others. In many countries around the world, censorship of the media is carried out by the government. Many governments also censor the citizens of the country, for example forbidding them to express certain views and ideas.
Students can work individually, in pairs or in small groups.
1. Ask the learners to imagine that they are censors in a country were there is no freedom of the press. Their job is to catch and remove everything that is bad news for the people in power.
2. Hand out the worksheet Be the Censor. Instruct the learners to pick a piece of media, find four items that they would censor and describe them in the first column, and explain why they would censor them in the second column. They should leave the third column blank for now.
3. Gather the class again after they have filled out the two first columns in the worksheet. Invite reflections and comments.
4. Tell the learners that even when you live in a country where politicians and other powerful people are forbidden from censoring the media, some people may still try. They might produce fake news and propaganda that tell an opposite story. Or they can try to discredit the journalist by spreading rumors about her or him. They may even try to bribe the media to withdraw a news item. Give real life examples, or ask the learners if they have any examples to give from Tunisia or abroad.
5. Ask the learners to imagine that they work for powerful people who would be hurt by the news items. They should go back and fill out all or some of the gaps in the third column, with ideas on how they could use disinformation, fake news/rumors or propaganda to counter the different news items.
6. Ask the learners to present their disinformation and propaganda ideas to the class.
Download the worksheet Be the Censor (PDF)
Preparation: Print out the True or false cards (or make your own cards).
1. Hand out the TRUE and FALSE cards to all learners.
2. Read the statements below out loud and ask the learners to raise one of their cards.
3. After each statement and show of hands, share the right answer and a brief explanation.
4. Invite comment or reflection before reading out the next statement.
True or False statements
35 journalists were killed in the world in 2016, and 150 were in prison.
False. In 2016, 49 journalists were killed and 199 were in prison.
Global press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years in 2015
True. In many countries around the world, political, criminal, and terrorist forces have increasingly tried to take control over or silence the media. Many journalists have been threatened and/or violently attacked. In 2015, these problems were most acute in the Middle East.
Globally, 27 % of all Internet users live in countries where people have been arrested for publishing, sharing, or merely “liking” content on Facebook.
True. Nearly 3 out of 10 Internet users run the risk of being imprisoned, sometimes fined or even flogged, because of what they do on line.
The new Tunisian constitution from 2014 guarantees freedom of expression at all times and in all situations for its citizens.
False. The constitution does guarantee freedom of expression, but also lists circumstances in which restrictions on press freedom would be justified, including, for example, to protect ‘public morals’.
Tunisian freelance journalists like bloggers and youtubers have to obtain an official press card if they, for example, want to enter the parliament building without a special invitation.
False. Tunisian freelance journalists are not allowed to obtain an official press card. This is only given to employed journalists, which also means that the freelancers lack some of the legal protections that are given to those employed by Tunisian media .
All journalists in Tunisia can demand access to documents and information from the state without special permission.
False. Only journalists who hold academic degrees can demand access to documents and information from the state without prior permission from the Interior Ministry.
The media in Tunisia are on the whole free to cover all political parties and leaders without any government interference.
True. The Tunisian press code from 2011 clearly states that the press should be completely free in covering all sides of politics.
Prior to the revolution, the media landscape in Tunisia was dominated by a handful of state-owned outlets and private firms owned by figures tied to the family of former leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and the ruling party.
True. Since 2011, state-owned media have been restructured to include more diverse viewpoints, and many private, independent media outlets have opened to produce print, television, and radio.
Download the True or false cards (PDF)
Studies show that mainstream media depict society in a non-representative way. For example, girls and women make up half the population in the world, but consistently make up on average 24 % of the persons seen in print, television and radio news. On digital news delivery platforms, the female percentage is only slightly higher: 26%.
This activity lets the learners discover who is actually seen and heard in the media in Tunisia.
Preparations: Popular newspapers collected during one or two weeks (enough to distribute to the whole class). Download the worksheet Counting heads. Make copies.
1. Ask the learners to guess what percentage of people pictured in newspapers are female versus male? Then ask what percentage of people pictured in newspapers they think are children under 18? Note some of the estimated numbers on the board.
2. Give each learner a newspaper and let them work in pairs.
3. Distribute the worksheet Counting heads (or let each pair of learners draw up their own matrix table on a sheet of paper.
4. Explain that they are to “count heads”, i.e. count the people in every picture in the newspaper and mark down the following:
– Number of children
– Number of females
– Number of boys
Tip: Skip group pictures from demonstrations, festivals or similar.
5. When the learners have finished, gather the class and ask each pair to report the numbers. Draw up a table matrix on the board and enter the numbers. Finally, add up the numbers and present the average percentage.
6. Invite reflection and comment. Are the ratios surprising? What could be the reason behind the imbalance? Is it a problem? How does it, for example, affect girls and women if they rarely see their peers represented in the media.
Tip! Often, at least a few of learners will blame the numbers on ‘reality’. “It is simply the way the world looks, and the media ‘has to’ reflect reality. Encourage learners to dig deeper and question if this is really true?
Optional: Extended activity
1. Let the learners return to the newspapers and try to find some of the following categories in the pictures, marking down the numbers:
– A female athlete
– A male athlete
– A father talking about his children
– A mother talking about her children
– An male expert
– A female expert
– A person with a disability
– A teenager depicted in a positive way
– A child who is victim of abuse or similar.
– An attractive woman
– An attractive man
– A retired person
– A poor person
– A rich person
2. Let the learners present and comment their results. Which categories were most difficult to find? What could be the reason behind the variation in representation for different categories? Finally, add up the numbers and present the average percentage.
3. Invite reflection and comment. Ask how this compares to the media they themselves use, for example social media. Can they themselves change the overall ration through their posts, likes and shares?
Download the worksheet Counting heads.
Preparations: Pick two stories about the same event from two different news sites or newspapers. If you do not have access to the Internet, print and copy the stories in advance to hand out. You can also use stories from print media.
Download the worksheet Comparing perspectives, print or copy.
1. Hand out the worksheet Comparing perspectives, and the stories you have prepared.
2. Let the learners compare the two stories, according to the instructions on the worksheet, and fill out the worksheet.
3. Let everyone present their findings.
Download the worksheet Comparing perspectives
Preparations: Get a bunch of papers and tape, or a long piece of string to mark the line.
1. Mark a line on the floor using paper, tape or a string. Ask the learners to stand on the line. Explain that one end means YES and the other means NO. They choose their position depending on how much or how little they agree with a statement.
2. Read a statement out loud and let the learners choose where to stand on the line based on how much or how little they agree. Start with a few simple statements to help the students understand the activity, like “Ice cream is tastier than vegetables”.
3. Move on to statements about trust. Ask a few learners to motivate their choice after each statement. Perhaps their arguments will make one of the other students change their position!
4. Summarize and invite comments and reflections.
• My parents
• My close friends
• My Facebook friends
• My Facebook friends’ friends
• My grandparents
• My teachers
• The media
Add real-life specific examples from local, national and international TV- and radio stations, newspapers and magazines, or famous TV-hosts and news anchors, artists, celebrities, bloggers and youtubers etc.
Tip: The Line activity can be used for almost any topics too, using different statements.
This activity helps learners approach media and information with a critical eye, check sources and decide whether the information is trustworthy. This will also help them to stay safe on social media, and when they do research for school!
- Improve critical thinking skills.
- Improve fact-checking skills.
- Analyze an item’s trustworthiness
- Become safer online.
Pick a few stories from a news site and Facebook posts that have gone viral. If you do not have internet access in the classroom, print stories, or/and Facebook posts in advance, to hand out to the students. You can also use stories from a printed newspaper. Download the worksheet Media credibility check.
- Hand out the worksheet Media credibility check, and also the stories you have prepared. Learners can work in pairs or small groups.
- Tell the learners to study the stories, and fill out the worksheet.
- Gather the class. Let everyone present their findings.
- Reflect together.