Jordan: An Acceptable Level Of Press Freedom & Obama Comes To Town

censorship press freedom arab world

A survey conducted by the Higher Media Council (HMC) revealed Sunday, showed that the media sector in Jordan enjoyed a 52.3 per cent level of freedom in 2007, a rate described as “acceptable” by the pollsters.

…424 of the targeted sample in the report said they had difficulties in obtaining information and, in cases, they were completely denied access to information. [source]

I don’t know what’s worse, calling a 52.3% level of media freedom “acceptable” or saying the media sector “enjoyed” it.

Nevertheless, it remains that at the top of the list of troubles is access to information and boy do I know how tough that one is. If it’s one thing the public sector is great at, its keeping information close. It’s not just the general policy and it’s not just the miles of legislation that run circles around the journalism profession, but public sector employees will tend to hold on to information like their life depended on it. And I suppose, to an extent, it does. Many of whom have no real qualifications or merit to earn or maintain such a position regard the information they have as their most precious resource. It’s the very thing that allows them to remain in that position. It’s the reason why many times you’ll find some government paperwork you need to get done being stalled, because someone in the supply chain is sick for the day, or the week, or the month.

And it’s interesting to see how that dynamic works the more you work in the field. It is also one of the main reasons there is little to no investigative journalism in the country, because investigation requires facts, leads, tips, and information that is all hard to get to in Jordan. So the media sector focuses primarily on basic reporting of the news.


Speaking of rights.

Obama is in town today and the Human Rights Watch wrote a very nice letter – following up an earlier one to Nader Dahabi last month – to mark the wonderful occasion. Here are some of the highlights from the text:

Jordan continues to have a problematic human rights record. In 2007 and 2008, Human Rights Watch visited seven of Jordan’s 10 prisons and found torture to be widespread and routine. Prison guards torture with impunity, in part because allegations of abuse are investigated and prosecuted by a special Police Court beholden to the police authorities. Jordan’s intelligence service has a notorious record for its torture of prisoners. The United States has been directly implicated in serious human rights abuses when the CIA secretly rendered terrorism suspects to Jordan’s intelligence service for interrogation and likely torture between 2001 and 2004.

Recently, Jordan qualified for initial consideration by the US Millennium Challenge Corporation, despite the fact that it gave the government low marks on civil and political rights. Initial MCC assistance since 2007 has not improved this situation to date. In June, Jordan’s cabinet referred to parliament draft laws severely restricting the rights to peaceful public assembly and to freedom of association and expression of non-governmental organizations.

The United States has invested a great deal in Jordan. Jordan is among the highest per capita recipients of US aid worldwide. The enactment last week of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008, makes an additional $450 million available for Jordan until September 2009, on top of the more than $600 million already allotted for military and economic assistance for 2008. US aid has greatly helped Jordan address economic and security challenges, but more needs to be done to ensure that this generous assistance is used to promote the human rights of all people in Jordan. Assistance to Jordan’s intelligence service should be conditioned on its compliance with human rights law, respect for due process, and an end to torture and other inhumane treatment, and parts of US aid in the “cash transfer” facility and MCC funding of the Jordanian government should be conditioned on respect for freedom of association and expression and peaceful assembly in law and practice, and on the effective prevention of torture and inhumane treatment in regular prisons, as well as civilian prosecution of perpetrators.

Lastly, the Supplemental Appropriations Act makes $175 million available to Jordan for assistance to Iraqi refugees there. This is a welcome step to alleviate a financial and social burden that Iraq’s neighbors have shouldered disproportionately so far. In its treatment of Iraqi refugees, however, Jordan does not comply with international refugee law. It deports asylum seekers to possible persecution to Iraq, closes its borders to Iraqis fleeing persecution, and, by not recognizing Iraqis as refugees, denies them the right to work in Jordan. The additional US aid to Jordan should be accompanied by greater attention to these issues of concern. [source]


  • the higher media council did the survey? talk about propaganda and imbalance… why published today? Oh yes, Obama is in town 😉

  • “public sector employees will tend to hold on to information like their life depended on it” LOOOOL!
    And its not just the ‘sensitive’ stuff either! For my Child Development O-Level I wanted to find out the number of maternity clinics we have in Jordan and they wouldn’t tell me!!! “ta3leemat min wazeer il si7a” … I laugh about it now but I remember how incomprehensible I found it at the time that the number of clinics in my country is considered a state secret!

    And with regard to journalism ‘reporting’ rather than ‘investigating’, I agree that lack of access to information plays a large part in the problem, but I also think a related problem is the role attributed the media in official discourse. For example, even the directives regarding the role of the media in Jordan always refer to notions of ‘objectivity’ and ‘truth’ as an absolute, and these neither exist nor are achievable. There are never any references to media acting as a protagonist on behalf of the citizens, scrutinizing public policy for the benefit of all (the policy included) and mediating a community wide debate on issues of public concern. When describing the ‘developmental’ role of the media, government papers seem to suggest flag waving rather than public engaging.

    Brilliant image by the way!

  • I think creating more traffic to this site is a priority.

    excellent issues are raised I am on of these people who loves Jordan to the bone however I hate watching it going down hill with minor issues that could lift JOrdans image up very and used as a benchmark for other middle eastern and north african countries.

    at the end of the day we are a country that is poor in resources but very rich in knowledge, talent, ethics, morals, honour, pride, technology i can go on for ages but i have to go back to work.

    check out for the next generation media that has only one red line his majesty!!!

    anyone below that is always up for some critical analysis

  • as usual, great post 🙂

    ever notice how wasta lies at the core of Jordan’s tremendously complex problems

    you can always trace it back to the lack of merit, permeation of corruption and patronage networks… are we ever going to put an end to this non-sense?

  • I think the US “learned” their lesson in not pushing for more reform in our region; Obama was against holding elections in the Palestinian territories, he backed his argument by saying that Hamas will win due to the facts on the ground. So the hope for a new direction in pushing for reforms in Jordan with a possible Obama administration is nothing but dreams. Also, the leaders in the region were successful in creating the idea of: No reform will be successful (Based on the American standards), unless a comprehensive peace deal is reached. Plus, the political elite (At least some of the most influential) in Jordan were successful in strengthening the sentiment that political reform in Jordan is dependent on the return of “refugees”.

    On a side note you might find that interesting:

  • I think that the most rewarding feeling you can get as a citizen, is your freedom to speak up your mind. And on this very particular, I really envy the British!

    When the media, the press, and all people discuss all issues in broad day light, without a worry in the world, only then there should be no frustration, bitterness, trouble or turmoil!

    In Jordan, we have a great monarchy; young and aspiring, and definitely putting Jordan on the world map of change- and we have our “old school” government body which sticks to the old text books; and barely resembles anything we encounter when we leave Amman airport, and particularly head west!

    They all want the same goal; which is the great benefit of this country, but in their very own ways. And that’s when clashes happen, between a generation who looks up to their monarchs, and see change, freedom and “trendy”, and a stubborn system, which resembles and even beats the most reserved of parents you can get.

    I understand all that, and yet I still have a dream…

    That one day…

  • Headline reads: HMC Delivers Public Anesthetic as Obama Visits

    The other day someone was telling me about a company he’d like to set up – the service he wants to offer is to provide information/intelligence to various businesses, mainly media. I laughed in his face wondering just how delusional he is. Good luck with that dude! (I think he’s suicidal.)

    This survey announcement is yet another insulting piece of quasi-data that only serves as a band aid for I don’t know who.

    How can any of this be credible, and how can there be true media advancement, if the public sector media orgs themselves are constantly shrouded in a murky filter? When their actions and announcements don’t even pass the common sense mark? And when the orgs themselves are not in sync with a defined vision and goal, and they are not even in tune with each other? And how can they even attempt to do any progressive work if they are driven by fear?

    There comes a time when you just can’t patch it up anymore. It’s so wrecked, that with every patch another defect moons thru!

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