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BBN’s Zoila Gonzalez reflects on International Visitor Leadership Program experience, Week 1 

Posted: Thursday, October 4, 2018. 1:29 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: Prominent online Belizean journalist, Zoila Gonzalez, a member of our Breaking Belize News is in the United States of America participating  in the United States Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

Annually, IVLP candidates are selected solely by U.S. embassy personnel in each country.  

Gonzalez is participating in a program entitled, “Building Digital Literacy and Media Responsibility in Democracies in the Digital Age.” 

Gonzalez joins other journalists and media professionals from Bolivia, Columbia, Honduras, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico and Ecuador.  

” I am proud to be participating in the International Visitor Leadership Program. It is a prestigious exchange  program administered by the US department of state. My first week in Washington DC was informative and very productive. We learned about the systems of Government of the US and Freedom of the Press. We attended a session on Investigative journalism with Professor Charles Lewis of the American University School of Communication. We visited the Newseum, the Newseum is a museum of news and the history of the evolution of news in the world. Our program is focused on countering the virality of misinformation, malinformation and disinformation and the threats that misinformation poses to democratic systems, values and our communities. Among the major discussions is Fact checking and using fact checking tools to verify information. We also met with Kim Ash, Professor at the Newseum where we gained insight to the 5 freedoms that the 1st amendment provides and the many ways that we as journalists can build media literacy among our readers and young students.” 

Zoila also visited the International Center for Journalists, ” The International Center for Journalists assists in building journalists expertise and emphasizes best practices for the media. Of particular interest to me was the advancement of media presentation and the digital media landscape. The media has evolved from type writers, many from print and radio and are emphasizing more on online digital news. This is crucial because most of our young people are now getting their news only from online sources. Working for Breaking Belize News, the leading online digitally focused news site in Belize has contributed to my knowledge on the digital media dynamics in Belize and how as media personnel, we can bring about positive social impact with promoting media literacy in Belize. At this time, there are global efforts to counter disinformation using different platforms since bots have been known to create misinformation on various social media platforms. In relation to creating or working toward having a more discerned citizenry, we as journalists and media professionals can assist with media literacy initiatives. “ 

After her first week into the program, Zoila already has a few plans of her own, ” I have been encouraged to share this wealth of  information and initiatives with students, teachers and fellow colleagues and I will when I return to Belize.  I also plan to implement some of their practices in my work with BBN to assist our readers to discern propaganda and be able to set aside what is fact and what is not. The media structure and freedom of the media and journalists in the US has also fructified my thoughts that there should be a network organization to support and assist journalists and media in Belize. An organization that involves us networking together, building our expertise, and learning more how to connect with our audience. The press is the cornerstone of healthy democracies and as such, we must consistently be finding ways to improve so that our citizens are fully informed on all regional, national and local issues.”  

Zoila also visited the Belize Embassy in Washington DC and met Belize’s Ambassador to the United States, Daniel Guitterez.  

Zoila is now participating in her 2nd week of the IVLP program in Boston, Massachusetts and Michigan.  

BBN will have more updates as Zoila continues on her IVLP journey.  



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