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Jordan can do more to ensure media freedoms — UNESCO

By Mohammad Ghazal - Sep 10,2015 - Last updated at Sep 10,2015

A UNESCO assessment says Jordan can do more to safeguard and promote freedoms of the media and expression (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — To improve its standing on media freedoms, Jordan needs to amend a wide set of related laws, indicated UNESCO on Tuesday, as the government pledged more efforts to ensure higher levels of freedom.

The in-depth assessment by UNESCO of the media landscape in Jordan was based on the UN body’s Media Development Indicators (MDI), conducted as part of the Support to Media in Jordan Project, funded by the European Union.

It was released Tuesday and it called for several measures to be taken in different areas, in order to boost media freedoms in the Kingdom.

The study urged a comprehensive review of laws that limit freedom of expression or press freedom, or encourage secrecy, including the Temporary Law of Protection of State Secrets and Documents. The move is repeatedly highlighted by media watchdogs and presented as a guarantee for more freedoms.

“The Jordanian Access to Information Law needs to be substantially revised so as to bring it into line with international standards and better national practices, and public bodies in Jordan need to take necessary measures to ensure effective enforcement of the law,” read the assessment.

Stressing the importance of the appraisal, Guy Berger, director of the Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, said Jordan is the 5th Arab state in which the MDI assessment has been made; the other four are Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Palestine.

Development of media contributes to the development of the overall economy and society, said Berger, adding that the assessment provides significant recommendations on how to move towards enhancing media freedoms in the country.

Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani said the government is committed to enhancing media freedoms, allowing them to reach higher levels.

He added that more efforts are needed to increase the professionalism of media. 

“The government supports media freedom as it is one of the main factors for national stability,” said Momani, adding that there is also need for more training of public officials to disseminate information, because lack of information leads to spreading rumours and “causes a headache for the government”.

 

‘Amending legislation key to freedoms’

 

The assessment urged the government to conduct a review of laws that are restrictive of media freedoms, including the Press and Publications Law, the Audiovisual Media Law, the Jordan Press Association Law, the State Security Court Law, the Anti-Terrorism Law and the Contempt of Courts Law.

Limitations on who may practise journalism should be removed, the assessment indicated, including laws that prohibit those who are not members of the Jordan Press Association from working or presenting themselves as journalists.

To ensure more freedoms, military courts should not have the power to handle cases relating publication or expression involving media personnel or civilians, said the assessment.

“Officials and public bodies should stop using soft containment measures to exert control over the media. Private actors should also refrain from seeking to influence media content through illegitimate means,” the report suggested.

 

More recommendations 

 

The assessment urged public bodies not to discriminate between media outlets when providing information about their activities, the assessment indicated. This necessitates putting in place a system to ensure that the allocation of advertising by public agencies to media outlets is done in a transparent manner, on the basis of fair and objective criteria.

Meanwhile, the report also indicated that there is a need for a clear and appropriate code of conduct for media, in order to make it easy to assess complaints.

The media sector as a whole could make more efforts to ensure that it serves all the people living in Jordan, in terms of both giving voice to their perspectives and of providing them with the information they need, the UNESCO report said.

According to the assessment, organisations providing media training and education should endeavour to coordinate more effectively to ensure that training responds to the real needs of the media sector in Jordan.

 

The report also urged the government to look into ways to improve connectivity prices as part of a broader strategy to promote greater penetration of both smartphones and access to Internet.

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