On Meeting The Prime Minister

The other day I received an invitation to a meeting with the Prime Minister only a few hours before the meeting was actually held. Apparently, the point was for “electronic news sites” as our government loves to call them, to have a chat with Prime Minister Nader Dahabi. The post-meeting analysis was a brilliant review by the government, as is expected.

“Prime Minister Nader Dahabi’s meetings with various representatives, particularly the electronic media, reflect the government’s conviction of the importance of these news websites,” Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Nabil Sharif said yesterday.

He added that online news adds a new element to the media sector by allowing for immediate interaction between readers over news posted on the Internet, stressing that the government has no intention of issuing any legislation hindering freedom of the press. [source]

Now here’s the thing: apparently 35 individuals were invited and only 15 showed up. I should mention right off the bat that I would have actually gone had the invitation not come so incredibly late. In truth, I knew what the meeting would be about but I was absolutely curious about the process story: what would be said at this meeting and how it would be reported (or marketed) the very next day. But since I wasn’t the only one that didn’t show up, others, including the Jordan Times, have satisfied my curiosity for me.

Apparently, there was a general “boycott” of the meeting by these “electronic news sites” (isn’t the usage of “electronic” and “sites” redundant?). The “boycott” – and I use air quotes because I’m not sure the extent to which it was organized – included, of course, Ammon News.

A fairly interesting editorial on the site describes the general reasons for the boycott, the main one being timing. Essentially, the general consensus seems to be that the invitations came too late in the context of the Dahabi government, which everyone feels is already half way through. In other words, it’s like Bush trying for peace in the Middle East a year before he leaves office.

I think there was a general taking of offense that the government is only now trying to communicate with electronic new sites after months, if not years of ignoring them. If you think about it, the only time the government ever used to acknowledge the existance of such sites was in the context of their declared desire to “legitimize” them, which is also synonymous with censorship. Today, they’re trying to make nice.

What publishers of such sites did agree on is that there is a sense of a new approach given that this meeting was arranged by Nabil Sharif soon after his appointment, contrasting his predecessor’s approach, Nasser Judah, which they claim was a burial of the rising phenomenon of these sites during his time.

In any case, the general consensus is that the timing is late and the Dahabi government has nothing of benefit to offer these sites.

I don’t the boycott was a very smart move on any of these organization, with all due respect to what they do. Reciprocating a year or two of government snubbing isn’t the best way for a media outlet to operate; at the end of the day, these people need access and the government is the one that grants it.

As for offering nothing new beyond mere words and symbolic gestures, which have a very short shelf-life in Jordan, the sites have a point.

At this point, media in Jordan, even new-media, comes down to actions.

I’m not talking about actions that manifest themselves in meetings, but rather in following that hands-off policy that King Abdullah has insisted on for some time now.

Once that track record is created, people in this industry will be a little more relaxed.

The government can talk about its love for free speech and responsible journalism, but right now, as its track record stands, it’s shown us little of that love.


  • The government doesn’t know the first thing about electronic news sites…
    The government here unfortunately is very very slow to react to certain topics…
    The government here does not realise that the news sites are read globally as opposed to print newspapers that are only read within the borders…
    The government should of from day one supported Jordanian News sites, as they are the gateway to the international level, however saying that, I feel that publishers of JORDANIAN sites should think hard about their content and try to cater for the international reader…
    Apart from that I feel that we have a long way to go until JORDANIAN sites make a real impact in politics and international opinion of Jordan…
    Most site here are not responsible in the quality assurance of comments, content and general point of view, there should be a strategy and the government should realise that these sites are the future of Jordanian media…

  • أعتقد بانه كان عليهم الذهاب إلى الاجتماع ماشي الحال الرئيس طنشهم في مرحلة ما لكن الرجل عاد ومد يده كان عليهم واجب المصالحة

  • The thing that worries me about all this, is that I don’t want the government to be interested to a point where so many regulations will become suffocating as is the case with printed media…

    whenever the government becomes interested in something …censorship, bureaucracy, centralization suddenly become very characteristic. As is the law of Non-Governmental organizations , which in my opinion has taken the civil freedoms ten years back!

    people call it regulation, I call it non-reasonable control!


  • You all need to be happy that you got this invitation. It means you are a “power” of influence! Think 24 years ago when I was in Media in Jordan! There were only Media employees with zero influence on any thing.

    Think of how you all, “electronic” unpaid people, have become a conscience of a nation where a Prime Minister tries to buy you off!

    This is the beginning of some thing interesting!

  • 1. The PM ought to start his own blog and engage in the zone to better understand the environment of this ‘electronic’ thingy.
    2. The gov needs to relax and stop feeling the need to jump on the bandwagon of something so out of their league as things are in this moment in time.
    3. Instead of inviting people for a chat, perhaps they should ask for people in the zone to help them with some capacity building – like creating workshops and talks for a group of gov people who need to learn so that we raise the bar of conversation when talking about this ‘electronic’ thingy.
    4. A little rule should be made that says that any gov entity/person who would like to address the online universe should be an active netizen. Otherwise they will be talking out of ignorance and that’s just not good for anyone.
    5. For those who boycotted – that’s just ridiculous coz it’s the exact opposite of the environment they claim in their online mandates. Why sever the dialog? Wouldn’t they rather rock the boat as an active participant in the convo? Wouldn’t they rather engage first so as to take a stand?

  • Man, you know what.. Sometimes I wonder how you get away with some of the stuff you write in here!! .. Anyway, keep up the good work.

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