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Report on the state of media draws mixed reactions

The 2021 Media Freedom Index report issued by the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists rated freedom of the press in Jordan 215.2 out of 600, down by 4 percent from 2020. (Photo: Freepik)
AMMAN — The 2021 Media Freedom Index in Jordan report issued by the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, titled “Shackled” and released on February 28, rated Jordan as “restricted”, drawing mixed reactions from lawmakers and journalists. اضافة اعلان

The qualification "restricted" was given for the second year running. The report rated freedom of the press in Jordan 215.2 out of 600, down by 4 percent from 2020.

Daoud Kuttab, director-general of Community Media Network, a Jordan-based media NGO, told Jordan News the report's results are accurate, adding that freedom of the media is slowly becoming more restricted as the government is becoming less tolerant of even mild criticism.

"If this continues, we have little chance of creating the kind of atmosphere that the new political parties need to be able to work on reforming the governance structure in Jordan," Kuttab said.

Kuttab added that the problem lies foremost in journalists’ self-censorship brought by the government's restrictions and meddling. Senior MENA editor at and cofounder and founding executive director of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism, Rana Sabbagh, told Jordan News that the report presents the status of the media in Jordan. She added that freedom of the press is necessary to monitor and combat corruption, nepotism, and human rights abuses.

Sabbagh also blames journalists in Jordan, saying that they have given up on their profession, “choosing to sit in the comfort of officials' laps”.

"Journalism was a sacred profession. Red lines were clearer; today, red lines have become like a spaghetti dish."

According to Sabbagh, there are many laws and regulations that intimidate journalists.

"Today, journalism, in general, has become the job of those who have no job. It is used to serve the journalist's interests and those of their families and friends."

Sabbagh added that human rights, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech “have been rolled back by the state for the past six years”, and that "a state with no professional media will never progress".

Lawmaker Saleh Al-Armouti told Jordan News that it is unfortunate to see Jordan rated as “restricted” when it comes to media freedom and that the report reveals clear violations of the Constitution.

"The Jordanian Constitution includes and protects freedoms,” he said, adding that there are pieces of legislation and policies that go against the constitution.

The cybercrime and anti-terrorism laws, for example, can be used to detain journalists and make them stand trial in state security courts.

"I believe that media are terrified, and I believe that security issues takes precedence over the political file. There is no way to reform without democracy, and there is no way we can have democracy without freedoms. The government should loosen the security grip and allow freedom of expression. There is no good environment for the media, and I am not optimistic that things will get better," Armouti added.

Lawmaker Yassar Al-Khassawneh, on the other hand, believes that the report exaggerated the status of the media in Jordan, saying that the report title, “shackled”, makes it seem like "we are standing in front of a detainee who will be put in jail".

"Media in Jordan have taken a remarkable space, but they now rely on the media personnel themselves. A good media environment creates the right behavior and reveals the truth, but, unfortunately, some media hide the truth for financial gain, and some biased media are used or created by some to push their interest," Khassawneh said.

Some issues should be off media limits and media should uphold the nation's interest, he said, adding that there were no arrests of journalists whose reporting was based on documented facts.

According to Khassawneh, Jordanian media are advanced and carry humanitarian values.

"We want for the press to search and document the truth, not to be carried away and say whatever crosses their minds; journalists should have a high level of professionalism and rely on documents when speaking of national issues,” he said.

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