Saturday, October 01, 2005

What happened to the weekly tabloids?

I have been looking for a copy of Al Shahed for about three weeks. Their web site doesn't indicate that there is a problem, and they even hint that they have new articles. I simply can't find a copy. Other tabloids are out there, such as Shihan, but it has become so lame that it is not worth buying.

Many people criticize these publications as being sensationalist and unobjective. The government has been trying to come up with a formula which guarantees "responsible journalism". This means that you can say whatever you want, as long as you don't offend anybody. Sounds like freedom to me.

It really is a dilemma. How can you have freedom of the press, and at the same time ensure that nobody offends a government official, a business man, a religious leader (or anybody masquerading as such) or a foreign government? Governments have been struggling with this for about 15 years, and it looks like the latest gimmick is to abolish mandatory membership in the Jordan Journalists syndicate, as has been suggested by the National Agenda committee. While they were at it, they also want to recommend the abolishment of the Higher Council for Media. I guess that these institutions have become the latest scapegoats, an official acknowledgment that we don't have free speech after all. Gee, I would have never guessed.

The Journalists syndicate has been bending over backward for the last 15 years trying to please the government. This included at various times the issuance of various "journalists ethics guidelines", and occasionally punishing members who dare violate these very vague guidelines. Thanks a lot guys. So, after being a self-censorship tool, they are now considered to be part of the problem. Where is my box of Kleenex?

Of course, the real tool for stifling free speech is the government itself through the laws that they enact. The use of vague terminology and tough punishments are enough to scare anybody trying to make a living in the media. The concept of "responsible journalism" is BS. Either you can tell the truth as you see it or you can't. Moreover, the constant attempts at stifling free speech assume that people are too stupid to be critical readers. I suppose that this is a swipe at our educational system. Anyway, publications such as the National Enquirer in the US are considered to be a joke. In Jordan, they have been trying to deal with this for 15 years.

So, to sum up, the national agenda committee:
1- Acknowledges that there is limited free speech in Jordan.
2- Blames the fact that this is so on the Journalists Syndicate.
3- Doesn't want to change the laws that are really stifling free media in Jordan.

I guess we can get a sense of what we are going to get out of the National Agenda committee. Diversionary tactics, and ultimately more of the same. Look out for more of my "irresponsible" comments.



At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 7:12 PM, Blogger Ziad said...

It's good to have a Jordan-centric political blog on JP.

I like your posts so far; looking forward to reading more.

At 8:10 PM, Blogger Hatem Abunimeh said...

The definition of a Journalist according to the association is " A journalist is the one that is a member of the Journalist association"

In other words any one that isn't a member of the Journalist association isn't considered a Journalist irrespective of his qualifications. Is this a correct way of depicting who is a Journalist?

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hatem: Good question. Two diverging arguement can be made. The first is that all professonals (physicians, engineers, nurses, lawyers, etc.) need to be professionally certified in order to practice. This way a certain level of professionalism can be maintained. The second is that journalism isn't a technical profession like medicine or engineering, and in the west there are no requirements that you need to be professionally certified to be able to practice journalism. Both arguements are valid, but I am really not sure that a person should be professionally certified to become a journalist. In the past, this requirement was placed in order to control the scene. Journalists certainly benefit from having an association through which they can negotiate with one voice. I suppose the question is how difficult is it for one to join. If the requirements are simple (passing a course or taking a test), then I don't see any problem. If the requirements is in having a BSc. in Journalism, then I think that it would be too restrictve, and it would certainly be a barrier for anybody interested in working in this field. I don't beleive that such barriers should be placed.

At 10:35 PM, Blogger Hatem Abunimeh said...

I'm fully content with your last reply.I concede that you gave a cogent reply.

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