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Press syndicate seeks ban on non-member journalists

In decision described as ‘hasty’, JPA will officially request gov’t stop dealing with ‘imposters’

By Mohammad Ghazal - Jul 22,2018 - Last updated at Jul 22,2018

AMMAN — The Jordan Press Association (JPA) has decided to address the government demanding public agencies and ministries to deal only with journalists and media practitioners who are members of the syndicate, but media experts labeled the move as “hasty and not well studied”.

The JPA will send the letter to the government of Prime Minister Omar Razzaz in a bid to protect and regulate the profession of journalism, Rakan Saaydeh, president of the 1,300-member syndicate, told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

“The JPA law stipulates that only members can practice the profession… There are many intruders who claim to be journalists and contact public agencies seeking information…Non-members cannot claim to be journalists,” he said.

The said law defines “journalist” as the member of the JPA, and those non-members who introduce themselves as journalists commit a violation punishable by a fine between JD100-JD500 or a jail term between one and three months.

“We are planning to take legal action against those who are not members and exercise the profession and authorities have a role to play helping us by refusing to deal with non-JPA members,” Saaydeh said.

The move, he said, seeks to address some “rejected and shameful behaviours” exercised by some who claim to be journalists, some of whom “do not actually work for media outlets”.

Such practices include blackmailing, publishing fake news on websites, and crashing conferences and functions seeking free meals, among others, he said.

“We repeatedly receive complaints from the Lower House, the government, the private sector and other sectors of such practices. To protect our profession, we need sources to deal only with JPA members.

“The JPA is working on setting a timeframe to allow all those workers to rectify their situation…This deadline will also be set for employers in the media sector as they need, for example, to provide their workers with a subscription in the Social Security Corporation and register them with the JPA so they eventually become members,” he added.

“All respected professions have associations and those who exercise professions are members of associations…Our ultimate objective is to regulate journalism and curb any malpractices,” he said.

Omar Maharmeh, managing editor of local news at Ad-Dustour, voiced his reservations over the decision.

“One needs not to be a JPA member to be a journalist… There are many well experienced and prominent journalists and columnists who are not JPA members at present,” he said.

“When it comes to malpractice such as publishing fake news or blackmailing, they are not restricted to non-JPA members… Some members do not abide by the profession’s ethics and standards,” Maharmeh told The Jordan Times over the phone.

“There are some loopholes in the current law of the association… for example, journalists who are correspondents for international media outlets and are residing in Jordan cannot be members of the JPA and this is unacceptable,” Maharmeh said.

Maharmeh agreed, however, that the association has a key role to play in the regulation of the profession and curbing malpractice.

According to Saaydeh, legal actions that will be taken against non-JPA members who work as journalists include referring them to the prosecutor general.

Khaled Qudah, media trainer and JPA board member, criticised the JPA move as “hasty”.

“Before taking such a decision and sending letters to the government, those who are not JPA members and are already working in the media need to be given sometime to rectify their situation… At the same time, employers in the sector must shoulder their responsibility in helping their workers rectify their situation,” Qudah told The Jordan Times.

“I believe the JPA decision was taken in a rush and it was not well-studied…we want the profession to be regulated in a manner that enhances media freedoms and supports the individuals who currently work in media but are non-JPA members,” Qudah said.

“There are violations and malpractice indeed, and regulating the profession is a necessity, but it should be in a manner that protects the rights of all and it should be thoroughly studied,” said Qudah.




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