Reforming the media

2. Khalid Dalal
Khalid Dalal is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and works as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News.
As Jordan’s reforms continue unabated amidst a healthy dialogue, mostly about details, between proponents and opponents, the media need adequate attention to perform professionally and responsibly, in their capacity as the Fourth Estate.اضافة اعلان

Despite the many, and formidable, challenges brought about by a host of factors, particularly the Corona virus, genuine political, economic and administrative reforms could help ensure that these challenges are transformed into opportunities. 

This month, the government forwarded the draft amendments of the Constitution, the draft election law and the political parties’ bill to the legislators for debate, together with the changes suggested by a panel representing Jordan’s social and political spectrum: the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System. The government did not introduce its own changes to the recommended amendments, setting a historic precedent in the journey toward reform. Thus, it could be safely said that the changes, when approved by Parliament, were truly effected by the people for the people.

The country’s leadership never ignored the crucial role played by the media in mobilizing the public to be part of the decision-making process and support reform, which will undoubtedly have a deep impact on our life and the way our country will perform in the future. 

In a recent meeting at Al Husseiniya Palace with Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh and other ministers, His Majesty King Abdullah II noted “the important role of media in promoting public engagement in decision making”.

The Royal remarks make it clear that His Majesty wants free, yet responsible, media that complete the bright picture of Jordan as a country in constant pursuit of excellence in all its endeavors.

The sad status of media in Jordan is obvious, and acknowledged by many, especially journalists themselves. The financial crisis of the print media is a major factor, along with the vagueness of some law provisions regulating the sector and the media content, and censorship, including self-censorship.

The issue of censorship could be dealt with easily if stakeholders agreed to cooperate. Media-related laws should be revisited the same way election and political parties legislation was. Once new, and modern, laws governing the media are in place, journalists need to be trained to be able to distinguish between free press and legal violations, as well as between professional reporting and sensationalizing. 

They should also be prepared to harness new technology, especially artificial intelligence, and disseminate news in a professional way.

Journalists need to understand that they serve their nation by being professional and law-abiding media people. Only professional coverage of events and issues may counter the chaos of social media and fake news. So far, regrettably, media outlets have not reached this point, as they are trying to stay afloat.

Freedom of the press and professional media performance are often missing from the contemporary Jordanian landscape.

To address the situation, a taskforce of stakeholders and experts could be set up to diagnose the situation and suggest remedies; it could comprise government representatives, Jordan Press Association members, young and seasoned journalists, private sector representatives, jurists and rights activists, who could all draw a roadmap for the envisioned change. 

Once new laws are enacted, upon the recommendation of the above committee, plans should be in place to train journalists in line with the best international practices in the field, with focus on fresh graduates to build a new generation of professional journalists.

Lack of action, when action is the only way forward, will be detrimental to the practice of journalism. Jordan cannot afford inaction, because when professional journalism becomes history, truth will die.

The writer is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and works as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News.

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