MP, experts lament decline in the state of freedoms in global indicators

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AMMAN — The head of the National Steering, Media, and Culture Committee, MP Yasar Al-Khasawneh, was quoted in a local media outlet as saying that the committee had drawn up a plan of action that has among its priorities coming up with amendments to the laws on press and publications, electronic crimes, and the right to obtain information, as well as amendments to the Penal Code punishments that affect freedom of the press.اضافة اعلان

The committee will hold a meeting with journalists, media professionals, and the Jordan Press Association to discuss the amendments that the committee will propose to preserve freedom of the press and journalists’ right to obtain information, said Khasawneh, pointing out the importance of having judges specialized in matters related to press and publications with complete autonomy and authority to make rulings.

Khasawneh also stressed that it is not acceptable to deal with social media the way one deals with mainstream media and that Jordan's regression in press freedoms indicators is “annoying”.

He said that the committee wishes to reach some kind of partnership with press and media workers who have the right to obtain information that should not be withheld from them.

He also said that in countries that have respect for the Fourth Estate, journalists enjoy immunity just like MPs, stressing that “journalists should not walk in a minefield during their work and impose self-censorship on the material they want to publish.”

Political analyst Oraib Rantawi said that media and journalists’ freedoms are integral part of public freedoms and that both are in a difficult and critical situation, with official media enjoying fewer freedoms than social media and websites, which also limits the influence of official media on citizens.

“This explains why the narrative presented by the Jordanian government does not reach Jordanians, why the government has no one to defend its version of the narrative, and this is what His Majesty King Abdullah complained about,” said Rantawi.

He stressed that the situation of newspapers is “catastrophic at all levels” and that curtailing freedom of the press leaves people with the option of obtaining information from social media, “with which the citizen is fed up”, and thus the Jordanian government loses one of its most important weapons, besides not being able to reflect a clear image of its undertakings.

Rantawi said that if the government does not reach the conviction that the media need legislation, freedom, and funding, and if it does not care to advance freedoms and respect the independence of the media and societal pluralism, there will be serious problems, particularly if the absence of political will and the “appalling state of slackness” in the country “made it falter”.

“For 20 years, we have been asking the same questions and giving the same answers, and yet have not found a way to translate them into anything meaningful,” he said.

He added that the image of Jordan, which was respected for many years, was shaken in 2021, and “we need to exert great efforts so that the world sees us differently.” Jordan, he said, has an interest in presenting its image beautifully and positively.

“If this state of political obstruction, anger, and betting on the patience of Jordanians continues, we have to worry about an explosion situation, the best example of which is the Arab Spring,” he said.

Former MP Jamil Al-Nimri said: “The decline in freedoms comes from a conflict in the work agendas of different authorities in the country, so that it appears that there is a certain trend. For example, the Royal Committee has done something, the security services dealt with protests in certain way, and this gives those who observe the country the impression that the situation is worse than it actually is due to the weakness of procedures and decisions. In the field of journalistic work, for example, if Jordan's rating regarding freedoms is average, the arrest of one journalist will make its rating drop by several points.”

Nimri said that Jordan's regression on the “ladder of freedoms” is an important lesson for officials who need to perform in a coherent way and avoid taking useless measures.

“The problem we have is that the different authorities in the country are working with different agendas and there is no coordination amongst them.”

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