And the quote of the day goes to… (drumroll please)
Interior Minister Nayef Qadi on Monday criticised certain media institutions for their lack of accuracy in covering news, describing some journalists as “agents of foreign agendas”. During a press briefing after a meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Nader Dahabi and governors from across the Kingdom, Qadi stressed that certain media organisations focus on the negative aspects of any news story, and in most cases, reporters and columnists do not investigate the news prior to publishing it, thus providing incomplete and imprecise stories. In some situations, he added, these journalists go against the Kingdom’s interests.
“They ignore the positive aspects of news stories,” he said, noting that there are journalists who represent certain “foreign agendas and accept funding from suspicious foreign parties”. [source]
First. I agree that some journalists in Jordan do not fact check and that some stories are impercise. That much is true, and by the by, this is generally applicable to the media industry worldwide. Inaccuracies happen. Sloppy journalism is evident. In Jordan, it might even be abundant.
However, I am truly sick of my government spewing out this foreign agenda line over and over again.
To avoid any confusion, I’m fine if ordinary citizens criticize the media or even members of the same industry – it is after all their tool and they have earned that right. But for a government official, and an Interior Minister no less, who, in essence, has a great deal of control over the freedoms of the press, to claim that some of these journalists have foreign agendas and accept funding from suspicious foreign parties?
Hold your horses.
A moment if you will.
Let’s get a few things straight.
We are talking about a government that receives a great deal of its own funding from sources that the majority of Jordanians probably do not agree with. And since nothing in life is free, that funding almost always comes with a foreign agenda attached right on to it. This isn’t an opinion; this is fact. This is a country where the people do not elect the government, thus have no power to hold it accountable for where it gets its money, for where and how it spends it, and no influence over the inevitable foreign influences that come with that money. A quick glance at the various sources of funding that keep the entire non-governmental organization sector afloat can verify this, to say nothing of actual governmental institutions.
Naturally, I say this with all due respect.
Moreover, I find it incredibly ironic that any government official (and an Interior Minister no less) would throw an accusation at some journalists – essentially coming shockingly close to accusing them of all-out treason – without providing any evidence of said charges. Isn’t that the exact “media flaw” that the government claims to be against – accusing people of something without providing the evidence for it?
In other words, doesn’t calling on good journalism require you to first apply good governance? To apply those same principles? To walk that same walk?
Also, every time someone in government (an Interior Minister no less) declares that the bad thing about media in Jordan is that they fail to essentially, uhem, “look on the bright side”, I shudder out of pure distaste. I mean really? Is that where media went wrong in Jordan? They didn’t run enough “positive” stories – also known as everything-is-alright stories?
How do you write that kind of story when it comes to security forces bashing heads of employees trying to exercise the worker rights they deserve? Where’s the “bright side” in that story? How do you avoid the negative spin?
Moreover, would it be wrong to say that so much of what’s “wrong” with journalism in Jordan is an inherent part of a system that the government itself created and has continuously sustained. A system that inevitably produces the very type of journalism the government now claims to despise?
And while the Interior Minister claimed that his words do not mean a scaling back in press freedoms in Jordan, I can tell you this much: there’s going to be a whole lot more self-censorship going on this year. Let’s wait for next year’s CSS study to verify that.
It’s just difficult to comprehend that the Interior Ministry of all places, which leverages a great deal of power over the strings that move-and-shake the mainstream media in Jordan, would claim that some journalists have foreign agendas, receive fishy funding, and don’t write enough happy stories. There is just way too much irony in that.
And naturally, I say this with all due respect.