Saturday, October 07, 2006

Jordan’s image

Jordan has been worried about its image recently. We worry what Al Jazeera and the Los Angeles Times say about us, as well as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. It is important to worry about your image if you are selling shampoo or mosquito repellents, but if image doesn’t affect your bottom line, how important is it?

Currently, the United States, Israel, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and a host of other countries are suffering serious image issues. Most of these countries protest that the media is unfair, and that coverage does not reflect the realities of their countries or their policies.

To a certain extent, it is true that the media likes to focus on negative aspects of any society, culture, behavior or policy. So, there is an inherent unfairness related to this. On the other hand, nobody seems to bother getting on Norway’s case. The only bad thing people know about Norway is that it is cold. Hardly headline material. Bad press require some basis of substance to happen. Many people worry about the image more than the reality.

So, how thick or thinned skinned should we be? It is human nature to care about how people think of you. A good image encourages tourism and investment. It also discourages other people from bombing or invading you (for fear over their own image). It also validates what you do and makes you feel good about yourself.

Trying to keep everybody happy all the time, on the other hand, can be an oppressive task. The nature of how things are require that you sometimes take stands that are unpopular or controversial. In the case of security, I believe that any PR considerations should be of secondary value to the task of fighting terrorism. This does not mean trampling human rights or free expression. Human rights have an inherent value irrespective of image considerations.

However, we should not shy away from the fact that terrorists and their supporters would use democratic freedoms to indoctrinate, recruit and incite young people into carrying out horrific acts. We also should not shy away from the fact that many in Israel would like change the regime in this country in order to establish an alternative homeland for Palestinians here. This would pave the way to expelling the remaining Palestinians from their lands, and allow for the resolution of an important obstacle in the path of peace between Israel and Lebanon.

Added to that, Arabists and Islamists like to blame the entire state of the nation on the “treachery” and “clientism” of the Jordanian regime. This regime is a convenient scapegoat, and diverts attention from the many failings of Arabists and Islamists themselves.

Therefore, achieving a perfect image is an impossible task for Jordan. Compromising our security and allowing the mass exodus of Palestinians from their homeland would appease most of our critics, but I would prefer a bad image.

To fight back, we need an independent, appealing, strong and credible media. Our print media is reasonable, but its effect is limited to the local population. There is lots of room for improvement, but a wide variety of critical coverage and commentary can be read here. Broadcast media, on the other hand, is a total disaster. This is disturbing because what others see of Jordan is mostly based on the broadcast and not the print media. The only way to improve our image is to allow the flourishing of independent broadcast media as well as an even more independent print media.


At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The only way to improve our image is to allow the flourishing of independent broadcast media as well as an even more independent print media."

I am all for expanding freedoms of hhe press and opening the way for more commercial channles. The problme is that JORDAN DID THAT already and the results have been disasterous.

Remember MAMNOU3 TV, TRUE TV, NOURMINA, SEVEN STAR, and soon ATV, and god knows how many low-substance, high-crap jordan-based SAT channels.

As a matter of fact, JRTV's image has been improved by the poor performance of the others (waiting for A-TV) as well as by a young generation of producers who are trying to bring more energy into JRTV.

In Jordan, even the "independents" on close examination are not. Most are linked to the estblishment directly or indirectly.

Yet the most serious problem is the never ending brain drain. Some of our best and brightest don't stick around too long. Why? many reasons. limits of freedom of the press, low wages, poor management (wasta), well...the ususal. we have memorized this by heart and I doubt this will even change since its part of the social fabric of the establishment.

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Anon: None of the previous independent channels has been news or current affairs channels. As far as I know, none has been even allowed to do report news or cover local issues. So, what has been tried in the past is of little relevance to what I am saying. I am not sure if Al Ghad will be different.

I am sure that we are capable of having a good TV station. After all, most successful stations in the region rely heavily on Jordanian talent and expertise. The formula for retaining talent is not so difficult.

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we should only be worried if the things mentioned in the media are true....we should worry if we hear problems and the truth from others and not from our own officials... what is the answer, more freedom and democracy.
how to get it, freedom is not a gift we get from someone when he is in a good mood..we should fight for it, do our best to raise awareness levels, and make people more patriotic..they should know that they belong to a country and not to a tribe or to a certain regime or is our land.

sorry for the long reply.
have a nice day

At 4:02 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hear hear!

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Abu Shreek said...

It is not the image that needs improving, it is the country’s overall situation that needs to be addressed.

I think the reason that it appears that there is a big increase in negativity towards Jordan is that as the situation continues to deteriorate , the media evolution is making theses negative things hard to hide,generating a double effect.

Again, I agree that everyone has problems but it is obvious that Jordan is on track fo more problems other than finding solutions for the current ones, and that has to change.

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Abu Shreek: A disagree with the assessment that things are "deteriorating", but I would agree that this is a general feeling which is not backed by hard data. The terms "overall situation" and "the situation" are too vague to even discuss.

There are many reasons for negativity for Jordan. Not everybody who has negative attitudes is striving for the betterment of the country, I'm afraid.

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Compromising our security and allowing the mass exodus of Palestinians from their homeland would appease most of our critics"

Agree. And this is yet another area where the Jordanian government is working counter to Jordan's interest. With the cozy relationship between the Jordan government and Israel, what pressure is left to apply on Israel to stop its policies of driving Palestinians out of the west bank and into jordan? With our open arms policy (see debate on red sea film school) we are effectively rewarding the Israeli mischief and sending a dangerous message that says no matter what Israel does to undermine Jordan's security, we will throw flowers at them.

Those Jordanians who deal with Israelis freely without even demanding or at least expecting from them to address our concerns regarding the refugees are in my opinion either naive or downright unpatriotic and opportunistic.

Jordanians must rally to form a political movement to oppose normalization with the jewish state until Israel stops forcing Palestinians out of the WB with their repressive security measures and until Israel acknowledges its role in the refugee problem in Jordan and works with us and the USA to find a just and lasting solution to it.

If the Axis of Moderates means the Axis of Morons, may be Jordan should reevaluate its choice of axis to include those who want to see a solution to the refugee problem but not at Jordan or Lebanon's expense.


At 6:58 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hi Adnan: I don't see evidence of a "cozy" relationship between the Jordanian government and Israel. The fact that the recent article comparing the king to the Shah of Iran was published by the Los Angeles Times should not be overlooked. The LAT is not known for being a staunch supporter of Arab causes. This, and other evidence, such as the Israeli commandor of the central sector claiming the king Abdullah would be the last Hashemite to rule in Jordan, and the LAT article, suggest that Israel is not happy with Jordan.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger Abu Shreek said...

-I agree that the use of "overall situation" and the situation are too general and do not say much, but I meant the various aspects of middle-class economy, political and personal freedoms, quality of education, quality of life in general,… know “the overall situation” :)
-we can definitely debate the "deterioration" issue.
-There are some people with special agendas and some other who enjoy self-whipping as a hobby, but there are also a lot of people who criticize hoping to raise awareness and hoping to make things better and more tolerable.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Abu Shreek: Indeed, discussing these issues is the role of a free press. In fact, the economy, freedoms, education etc., are not cut and dried issues. They are subject to intense and divisive debate with conflicting overall objectives.

For example, education. Never in the history of the country have there been so many available seats at government institutions. Students in the 60-65% bracket were accepted in some fields (I am not talking about exceptions, but open competition seats). Clearly, this responds to massive demands by people to open oportunities for tawjihi graduates. On the other hand, this will lead to lower quality graduates. How should the trade off be decided? Obviously, there is no correct answer and people will focus on the lower quality of eduactaion but not on the greater opportunities that students are enjoying. I personally prefer a more selective approach, but this is only my opinion.

Similarly, other debates on the economy or health or privatization have no perfect answers. To suggest that all the choices being made are ill intentioned and bad for the country would not be fair. In the end, people should decide through the political system.

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