Monday, January 02, 2006

Media reform- spinning wheels

The spokesman for the government, Nasser Joudeh, today stated that the government will "review the performance of the official media organizations", both in terms of management and product". Moreover, he stated that there are "no prior agendas in regard to the media".


He is thus saying that they want to "review", and that nothing is decided. I seem to remember something called the National Agenda Committee. Wasn't that supposed to do all the reviewing that we need, and to set agendas based on that?

Back in March, 2005, Marwan Muasher stated that the government will establish a communications directorate within six months, in order to "coordinate" the transmission of information (i.e. keeping their stories straight). Later, in October, the NAC leaked that it is recommending the abolishment of the higher council for media, in favor of a new commission created by the merging of the audiovisual media commission and the press and publications department in order to "regulate the media". For good measure, they created a stir by suggesting that mandatory membership to the journalists' syndicate be abolished. A couple of weeks later, the higher council for media struck back, criticizing the NAC for not seriously addressing the problems of the official media and for "rehashing existing legislation using imprecise and ambiguous language". It went on to criticize the NAC for not presenting any justification for wanting to change anything. Of course, the press syndicate made a fuss about the mandatory membership thing.

On another note, the government is pressuring parliament to move on legislation for the media presented to it last November. Two pieces of legislation are on the table. The first is a freedom of information act which has enough provisions in it to enable the government to withhold any information it deems necessary. The second is an amendment to the press and publications law that would prevent the jailing of journalists. The funny thing about these two pieces of legislation is that they were drafted by the higher council for media, and not by the NAC or any committee affiliated with it.

So, what did the NAC exactly do with regard to the media. Well, we don't exactly know, since the agenda is still not public. We can deduce the following, though:

  1. The current government doesn't regard the NAC recommendations as an agenda that it is committed to.
  2. The previous government sent legislation to the parliament on press issues that was not related to what the NAC was doing.
  3. The NAC was leaking recommendations about the press in order divert attention from what they were really up to. This can be deduced by the fact that the NAC recommendations, as they were leaked, bore no resemblance to the actual legislation sent by the government to the parliament.

So, the NAC and the Badran government weren't about the media at all. They just leaked provocative recommendations to keep people amused, while they went about the real issue, which was the economic laws designed to make the rich richer and everybody else poorer.

As for the media, we still need to figure out how to have "responsible journalism". Until we do, reviews and experiments will be ongoing.



At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I am not a blogger and I am not even Jordanian, I am Lebanese, living in Canada and I have a great interest in the issues you have been posting.

I've been reading a lot about the new political development minister (Rbeihat) and his plans for political reform, freedom of speech (freedom square!), encouraging a multi-party system and pluralism...etc. Does anyone have any comments on that?

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hi Anon: In Jordan we are used to the government making statements that they have no way of following up on. Wh have been listening to talk about political reform, free speech and such for years.

I will give the government the benefit of the doubt, but after I see something tangible.

At 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has the national agenda been dubbed "complete and in effect" already or not yet? Was it in effect when the Badran government presented its press legislation to the parliament?

At 10:33 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hamzeh: The Badran government put legislation in effect based on the NAC recommendations. These were the four laws rejected by the house. On the other hand, the entire document has not been released, and it is difficult to assess what legislation is inspired by the NA. The media laws in particlar bear no resemblance to the press leaks put out by the NAC. These leaks talked about abolishing mandatory affiliation with the journalists' syndicate and abolishing the higher council for media. The HCM sent legisation to the government, which endorsed it and sent it to the house. They didn't enact the legislation as temporary laws, as they did with the economic legislation.


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