Should Jordanian Journalists Share Blame?

Last Wednesday…

â??Bakhit stressed the government’s firm stance, based on His Majesty’s King Abdullah’s directives, to totally abolish imprisonment of journalists in press cases.

â??The government’s decision to withdraw the draft law from the Lower House earlier was due to a decision taken by the National Guidance Committee to retain the imprisonment clause,â? said Bakhit.â?

and so…

â??The Jordan Press Association (JPA) has decided to halt all planned protests against the controversial amendments to the Press and Publications Law after receiving assurances from the government that its demands would be met.

JPA council members discussed the results of the meeting with Bakhit on Saturday, with Momani commending the â??positive atmosphereâ? of the talks at the Prime Ministry on Wednesday.â?

Today the Jordan Times had an interesting editorial on the issue:

â??Conservatives usually cite plenty of arguments to fight against the principle of journalistic immunity. Many like to point to the so-called advanced democracies, including the US, where the constitution does not grant journalists immunity in the exercise of their functions and where reporters can â?? and are â?? prosecuted by the system for not revealing their sources, while at the same time, the law entitles sources to prosecute reporters who violate a confidentiality agreement.

â??If journalists are threatened with imprisonment or actually imprisoned in the US, why shouldn’t the same happen in less developed Jordan?â? ask the conservatives here.â?

Yeah, I know, that sounds funny. But the editorial says Journalists are in part to blame for the situation, and begs a few important questions:

â??Who draws the line between slander and the selfless, dedicated efforts of a reporter determined to expose a major corruption scandal?

Where does objective reporting end and â??damage to the image of friendly statesâ? start?

According to our law, as it is today, these and most other delicate questions are mostly up to the military courts.

As journalists, it is high time that we assume responsibility for this sad state of affairs.

It is as much our fault as it is â??the regime’s.â?

Journalists have not seriously lobbied for their causes. In the case of the amendment to scrap prison sentences, for example, the fight was left almost entirely to the Higher Media Council â?? with all due respect, a hybrid deliberately created to wield little, if any, power.

Journalists’ ranks remain deeply divided between an old guard who still views its job as that of a mouthpiece for the leadership, and a new guard too timid and self-absorbed to fight real battles in the real world.

As a result, so-called â??journalistsâ? participate in sit-ins against the abolition of mandatory membership in the Jordan Press Association, or lend their support to similarly self-defeating causes, which obviously contradict the most basic principles of the profession.â?

Jordanian blogger, writer and environmentalist, Batir Wardam has a few things to say about the troubling times for press freedoms in the country.

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