First, a new study.
Around 46 per cent of the Kingdomâ€™s journalists believe that the status of press freedoms did not change last year, according to a Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ) study released on Saturday to mark World Press Freedoms Day. Meanwhile, 25 per cent felt it had declined, while 28 per cent said it had improved…around 94 per cent of those surveyed said they practise self-censorship, avoiding certain subjects or criticising public officials for fear of penalties or even losing contacts for future stories.
The report indicated that around 80 per cent avoid criticising local security authorities, while 75 per cent avoid criticising Arab and foreign leaders and 56 per cent do not try to criticise the government. Moreover, the study revealed that around 65.9 per cent of those surveyed cited government interference in their work, with 39 per cent saying they responded to pressures exerted on them. Journalists, who believed that media-related laws obstruct their work, dropped to 39 per cent last year from 61.6 per cent in 2006.
But apparently, journalists shouldn’t be so scared…
The King has sent a letter on World Press Freedom Day to the Prime Minister, which essentially outlines his vision for the media sector. The letter starts out with an Aristotolian inquiry as to truth and what is truth and then states…
For us, the media will always be a fourth authority, dealing with all institutions and individuals on an equal basis, uncovering the truth, warning of what is wrong, highlighting what is right and seeking to preserve the homelandâ€™s interests by defending the rights of Jordan and the Jordanians, and putting their interests first and always, above all interests and all considerations.
This is the vital, honourable national role that our national media institutions play, and we urge those in the media, on this day, to continue with these steps, innovating and disseminating ideas of value to the people, while we support their national and responsible role.
The letter then descends into a bit more ambiguous realms, calling for, yet again, new legislation regarding the press; where “This dynamic should be accompanied by a national dialogue to propose legislation that complements and enriches existing legislation in order to strengthen the protection of media personnel and opinion, and will affirm respect for individual rights. Such legislation should be drafted in accordance with the most modern and reliable international practices and norms.”
This will probably emerge in the form of last years’ Press and Publication law which struck down any amendments to jail journalists but did nothing about the billion other laws that allow for the jailing of journalists. I know, it’s ironic.
The King also insisted that the media…
…are representatives of all points of view, abiding by the ethical and professional rules, rising above character assassination, refraining from slander, holding to objectivity and transparency and eschewing whatever may hurt our national unity.
Ah, the key word: national unity. What is it, and how do we define it? You’re asking the wrong guy.
Zgheilat, chief editor of Al Rai, has won the Jordan Press Association election after his rivals all withdrew.
Things that make you go hmm.