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Jordan Media Commission’s new law on news websites draws controversy

By Laila Azzeh - Jul 28,2017 - Last updated at Jul 28,2017

AMMAN – A new regulation by the Jordan Media Commission (JMC) is stirring controversy in media circles.

Under a new decision made by the commission earlier this week, only news websites with at least five journalists will be licensed, a step which the JMC views as a “way to reform and organise the sector”.”The decision was made as part of the commission’s measures to protect the intellectual property of press materials and create a state of positive competition among licensed media outlets,” said JMC Director General Mohammad Qteishat, who added that some news websites incur high operational costs to manage their businesses, while others operate without even having an office.

He noted, however, that the new decision will only be applied to newly established websites and not those that have already been licensed according to the law. 

Khaled Qudah, a reporter and member of the Jordan Press Foundation’s (JPA) council, commended the new measure, which he said will contribute to “reinstating the role of the press in society and combatting discourse of hatred, which has been on the rise due to the increasing number of intruders in the sector”. 

“The public, civil society and even the state, have been calling for organising the media sector after the rise of unprofessionalism and rumours due to several factors, mainly the arbitrary licensing of news websites and the poor application of the Access to Information Law,” Qudah, who also coordinates the JPA’s media freedoms file, told The Jordan Times on Thursday. 

Qudah added that this has facilitated the spread of rumours, stressing the need to train journalists and spokespersons on their rights and how to deal with resources, while also acquainting lawyers and judges on ways to handle cases under the Press and Publication Law. 

On the other hand, reporter Maher Shraideh opposed the new step by the media commission, particularly as it does not deal with already-licensed news websites. 

“How is it that the new measure will organise the sector if it’s not applicable to the ones already functioning and causing trouble?” he asked, saying that forcing new websites to hire at least five journalists will only stand in the way of fresh graduates who have the right to start small.

“Young journalists are the only ones who will be affected by the new measure. It is also worth mentioning that the commission’s role is to enact laws and by-laws, while leaving the organisation of the sector to the JPA,” Shraideh told The Jordan Times.  

Earlier this month, the commission began implementing four by-laws which were published in the Gazette. 

The first by-law entails licensing fees for press, publishers, distributers, libraries, research centres, translation offices, public opinion poll centres and advertisement offices. The second by-law is related to licensing publishing facilities. The third covers the accreditation of TV and radio stations and their correspondents.

The fourth by-law concerns print media correspondents and foreign media outlets. 

 

In previous remarks, Qteishat said that the new by-laws will develop the commission’s performance and “achieve fairness” among members of the sector.

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