I know it might feel a bit redundant after the past few days of picking on the subject extensively, but today there seems to be an overkill of news on our favorite topic.
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.
Several ‘hhmmmmmms’ in this post. I dont’ think it is one you can write about too much.
I think ‘slander’ needs to be defined. It seems to include a lifted eye-brow or less than glowing praise.
I am serious now: Why don’t they create drafts journalistic pieces addressing any potential issue that might arise. For example: How to critisize an official:1-…. 2-….
In addition to the ever lasting point about “national unity”, the king said in the letter:
I’m really disappointed that somebody that I’ve held in such high intellectual regard as our king would believe that the opinion of someone can “infringe on people’s rights and freedoms, even their honour.” integrity too! Really? How exactly does the opinion of anyone do all these things?
I don’t think I’ve heard the king make such statements before, and if that’s true, then not only will the status of press freedoms in Jordan have gone to the worse, but also the statements coming out of our top most leadership, and that is something to really be disappointed about.
I guess we shouldn’t hold our breath too long for any change to happen.
“and that we seek to empower the press and enhance its role in expressing the homelandâ€™s conscience and the ambitions of its daughters and sons, within a framework of accuracy, objectivity and professionalism.”—-> ahhhh, the three magical words: accuracy, objectivity, and professionalism! those are basically what our journalists are deprived of and will be deprive of for a very longggg time, operating within the “limited freedom” they are offered in the lines of this letter!
King Abduallah II in 2005:
“Up until now, the situation was that the students with the worst grades on their tawjihi (high school graduation) tests had two optionsâ€”journalism or religious affairs. The result is obvious, in both fields.”
In other news today: 55% became the tawjihi grade required for admission.
Ouch. A timely reminder Nas. And, a sad one as well. Indeed even we Americans living and blogging in Jordan practice self-censorship. How sad a statement is that? Ironically, this problem is one that I see across all of the branches of government. While the top-most level may have an excellent vision, those who implement rarely understand what it means or how it should be applied. Some clarity would definitely be a good idea. I’m with Mohanned on the official guide, although I’d take a FAQ approach, e.g., What would happen if I published an article saying [insert controversial topic]? 🙂 And a matching one for the powers that be that tell them what to do if…
to me, there are just too many subjective weasel words in all these statements. and this completely undermines any notion of freedom. if there are walls built around freedom, then it’s not freedom.
Although it might be difficult to apply American press freedoms, Jordan could adopt Britain’s laws without a problem. But the King chooses not to do it. The Hussein’s used to say they were guiding their country towards modernity; it looks like they’re leaving it mired in the past.
The royal family in Jordan is not referred to as “the Husseins.” You might be thinking “the Hashemites.”
This speaks volumes on why freedom of speech is something that our “journalists” don’t deserve..
Freedom of speech and Media independance May 03, 2008
I am a Jordanian living in the UK,
I want to bring you attention to an aricle written in a Pan Arab Web Portal, http://www.aaramnews.com.
please copy and paste the link above into the address bar and have a read, I would really appreciate to know what you think about the whole situation of freedom of speech and media independance. Being Jordanian I would love Jordan to be a benchmark for Arab media liberalism and spreading the facts.
The article is not an attack on Jordanian domestic or foreign policy nor is it an attack on his Majesty however it is critisism on decision makers in the royal court.
Please have a read you can send me your feedback as a reply on here or better still a comment on the bottom of the article page would be excellent.
Hope to hear from you all
A Proud Jordanian in London