Journeys In Jordanian Citizen Journalism Thus Far

Mark Glaser recently interviewed our friend Ramsey from 7iber, which was quite an honor I think. However, the piece got me thinking about the state of citizen journalism in Jordan; both in terms of its successes and failures. In the comments section of Marks’ post, Ethan Zuckerman co-founder of Global Voices, noted that 7iber is not the first citizen media project in Jordan, with Ammannet having that honor. This is very true, which is a great thing because it gives me (and us) a point of reference. Ammannet has many selling points. First of all it’s in Arabic and second of all it has funding, at least enough to train people and give them equipment.

Yet not many people in Jordan know about Ammannet. This is because the only way for citizen media to survive in the current media environment in Jordan, is for it go online. This, in itself, is a problem. As my friend Ahmad Humeid pointed out in that same comments section, recent statistics have shown that only 16% of Jordanians have Internet access at home.

This is why I always respond with “I doubt it” whenever someone asks me whether I think blogs will change anything in Jordan. The effect is minimal. There are (and will continue to be) few success stories, and even those tales are in the grand scheme of things relatively insignificant when compared to the overwhelming power of traditional media in Jordan. However, I also make sure to note that this opinion is based on the status quo and I’m an optimist when it comes to new media playing an active role in Jordan. In other words, if various elements begin to change, if traditional media works with the online world, if more journalists and influential types become bloggers, and if Internet access begins to increase in the country, well then we’ve got something going.

Since 7iber’s launch, I’ve learned a few things. I guess there’s really no better way to understand the subject of citizen media until you’ve made an attempt to partake in the process.

I’ve learned that the hardest thing is to find time to dedicate to such a project.

I’ve learned that it’s even harder to find people who are willing to contribute just about anything.

I’ve learned that many people will promise many things, but rarely will they deliver.

This last point got me thinking about what incentive people need. The country is deprived of free speech and free media yet rarely will you find anyone willing to do anything about it. This is something completely fascinating for a 20-something year old whose accustomed to reading history books where the masses marched and rallied and fought for their voices to be heard. This however, is a topic for another post.

But, simply put, getting people to contribute to just about anything (when they’re not being paid for it) is like pulling teeth.

Ahmad Humeid also interestingly noted in his comment:

I wish 7iber luck. But to achieve their aim, in my opinion, they need to move beyond blogging punditry to more investigative stuff, which is time consuming and thus needs some sort of financial support.

This is true. Time is money, and we have neither.

That being said, I would much rather the time over the money although I acknowledge the fact that money often makes time. I also acknowledge the need for funding but I don’t feel we need to operate such a project based on those funds. This is a project I am completely invested in simply because of its potential, its ramifications, its ideas. These are my personal incentives and the same can be said with everyone involved in it. Around 50% of my monthly activities are dedicated towards projects with no monetary incentive. And I love that.

As for content.

The content on 7iber is based on the contributions we get from people.

Simple as that. Every now and then we’ll throw in a feature we, as the editors, have done ourselves. A recent example was the interview with ATV’s Mohanned Khatib that Lina was able to do. One of the commentators of that post, Dave, wrote about the post on his own blog and I found the comments to be quite interesting, such as…

Hatem Abunimeh said…

Dave, With all due respect to people– they should have talked to both sides of the issue so we can get a balanced view of what is really going on. If for instance the other side declined to appear for an interview 7iber should have said so in their report. Talking to one party alone without giving the other party an opportunity to confront their accusers isn’t a good reporting practice. I’m not partial this way or that way I just want to know the facts.


Rami said…

dave, the post you complain about is presenting an alternative point of view. that’s considered a good thing. since when is it considered an offence for someoen to disagree or express an opposing point of view on blogs?

This is also part of the problem. People hear the word “journalism” and suddenly they conjure up historic notions of how that term has been defined by traditional media. Projects such as 7iber are held to that standard. Though rarely have I ever read an article in any newspaper that was objective. If anything, a newspaper or even a magazine, will define its writings according to specific political leanings or the general beliefs of the editorial staff.

What’s interesting about citizen media is its ability to reshape itself without being bogged down by traditional definitions. For example, if someone felt our interview with ATV was bias, possibly leaning more towards being sympathetic with the channel, then that’s fine. This is where that person comes in and offers their own analysis on the issue. If someone did an interview with the AVC and got their point of view, we’d post that too.

That’s the beauty of it.

It’s supposed to be a collection of alternative points of view. And they can all contradict one another in the same media playground, as they rarely do in any traditional format that I’ve ever seen.

A few months back when I was trying to define 7iber, I called it a ‘journey of ideas’. I should’ve said an ‘evolving journey of ideas’; that would’ve been a more accurate description. The project still has its set goals in mind. We’re still introducing the idea to the many people each of us meets on a daily basis. Describing it is hard enough; getting them on board is another matter.

I recognize that we might not be something that appeals to many people in our age group. I also recognize that it might be more popular had it been in Arabic (which is something we plan to do down the road), but at the time of its inception I think we came to the conclusion that English would be tougher to do. If we can overcome the language barrier then having it in Arabic won’t be a huge problem.

If I could describe 7iber in one word (and indeed citizen media in general), I would call it a “crucible”. It is in fact home to the reaction of all the elements poured into it; elements that are completely representative of the user input.

The citizen.


  • Rou7i: first of all none of us are americans; we’re all jordanians. second of all, we’re not american-funded, we’re not anything funded. third of all, why does everything american necessarily mean “bad”

    citizen journalism is based on telling the untold stories, and is based on freedom of speech. america does not have a monopoly in either.

    so you can call it “american-inspired” if you want, but that’s not an insult.

    not really.

  • >>>> why does everything american necessarily mean “bad”

    because if a few minor issues such as:
    war crimes?
    support for zionism?
    support for repressive regimes?
    undermining democracy?
    all with the support of fellow Americans in a free society making free choices in free elections producing war criminals who kill millions of innocents.

    that’s all i can say in one birth.

    if you are Lithuanian, I guess the US is OK.

    granted I don’t know these individuals mentioned and yes they could be goood people. yet their selectivity in endorsing certain projects and persons with known neo-liberal views does show a pattern of endorsement that I find problematic but consistent with the US definition of a good arab and that starts with that Arab expressing views sympathetic to Israel, openly or privately as well as condemnation of arab reisstance.

    The other catch is that you never know how these Americans voted. did they vote for the Texas dynasty that killed over a million arabs for no reason other than to keep the cost of fuel for Americans down?

    but what I know for sure is that Daoud Kuttab of AmmanNet has received USAID funding. if you think this is clean money, than i strongly disagree.

  • Nas,
    W. Clement once said: Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything.

    If 7iber is conceived in your mind it can be achieved by your body. Negative, positive, as well as neutral comments will always be there but they are part of the nature of the beast, you must train yourself to accept them and move on.

    Here is a short list of what some people said about George Bush the President of the United States.

    He is coward

    He dodged the draft

    He is a coke head

    He is Nazi like

    He is a murderer

    He should be impeached

    And the list goes on, do you think that he cares about what these people think of him?! He just keeps going doing what he thinks he ought to do without worrying what is being said.

    The point that I’m making is that if you are going to worry about every comment that every one makes about 7iber you are going to get burned out in no time.

    You stated that people writing the editorials on 7iber are expressing their opinion and so is the people who are making the comments, they too are expressing their opinion even if it comes out as distasteful. I say just move on you are doing okay but that is just my opinion.

  • Hatem: your thoughts are appreciated.

    Fat7al: our (arabs) list is just as long when it comes to injustices. but america cannot be reduced to simply that list, and the same can be said about us (arabs) or any other peoples.

    there are other lists to consider. freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the media; what i’m able to say in one breath.

    granted I don’t know these individuals mentioned and yes they could be goood people. yet their selectivity in endorsing certain projects and persons with known neo-liberal views does show a pattern of endorsement that I find problematic but consistent with the US definition of a good arab and that starts with that Arab expressing views sympathetic to Israel, openly or privately as well as condemnation of arab reisstance.

    i dont know what that has to do with anything. 7iber is based on contributions and they can represent whatever view people want to take.

    what you said about usaid and ammannet, well that too has nothing to do with what i’m talking about.

    this isn’t about aid or funding

    its about contributions and creating or at least nudging along a culture of citizen journalism.

    that’s it.

  • In terms of giving it a more evolving feel.. Google has always released products in “beta” form.. meaning it is not the final version… and only give you the full release once the product is stable and not changing…

    Going back to 7iber (beta) will keep in people’s mind the sense that it is an evolving project, with evolving objectives and ideas.. and that people can shape its direction.

    Just my 2 cents

  • “our (arabs) list is just as long when it comes to injustices.”

    WOW! you have spoken like a true neo-liberal.

    fact: arabs don’t live in democracies and the injustices you refer to are committed by repressive authoritarian regimes who will happily kill arabs as easily as anyone else who comes in their way to amassing fortunes and maintaining control.

    So the mere fact you equate the injustices of poeple who are living under the yoke of oppression, mostly protected or funded by the Americans, versus the injustice committed by Amercians who chose genocide by a majority vote, is rather telling of how far you are willing to go to play the “good arab”

    you cannot disappointed me anymore Nas. that would suggest that i am surprised by what you say. i am not.

  • Bad Arab,

    Does it mean that Arab people hold no responsiblity at all to the regimes they live under? Do you mean that these regimes arrived from nowhere (or america?) to Arab societies, and before they instated their power there were no rulers?

    The French revolted in 1789.

  • Yael, how many Palestinian kids have you butchered? what makes you think that I am interested in conversing with a war criminal? why in the world would i be interested in a civilized conversation with a baby killer? you live in my house, remember. and you want me to pretend that this is business as usual? are you blogging while on duty? or do you blog in between your killings sprees of arabs? what a funny guy. kill arabs by day, blog with them by night. FREAK!


  • Great job! It’s good to see that 7iber is gaining more exposure, I think it just needs a bit more time for it to pick up further momentum. And just the fact that it started makes me proud as a Jordanian; as 7iber has very few counterparts (if any that is) across the region.

    As for the promises, I already feel guilty and red-handed, but it’s exactly as you put it. There’s hardly enough time to dedicate more articles for the website, but I will deliver the stuff I promised soon. I’m actually happy that PBS thought my article was excellent! :-).

Your Two Piasters: