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 Jordanâ€™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. Jordanâ€™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 Jordanâ€™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, Jordanâ€™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 Jordanâ€™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 â€œcash transferâ€ 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 Iraqâ€™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]