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Media freedom levels reasonable, control justified after regional chaos

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Media freedom in Jordan is “reasonable”, sector leaders said Sunday, calling for law amendments to prevent the trying of journalists at the State Security Court (SSC).

 

Media leaders interviewed by The Jordan Times said freedom of speech must not be repressed, but should be regulated to avoid chaos.

They also said journalists themselves can reach a higher level of freedom by employing the right language to express their message and not succumbing to self-censorship.

 

“Freedom of speech is relatively good in Jordan, and this can be noticed in online and social media,” Al Rai Chief Editor Samir Hiyari said, adding that “it is even much better than a few years ago.”

 

Mohammad Tal, editor-in-chief of Jordan’s oldest daily Ad-Dustour, had a similar opinion.

 

“The freedom of speech level is acceptable in Jordan, especially when compared to other countries of the region,” Tal said.

 

However, “smart journalists” can reach the level of freedom they want by manipulating language smartly and without being offensive, he added.

 

The same views were also echoed by former media minister Samih Maaytah, chairman of the Jordan Press Foundation, which publishes Al Rai.

 

Maaytah said a professional journalist knows how to use words and write a piece that delivers the message without being questioned by any party.

 

“We have a good level of freedoms, but regulated,” he said, noting that when the “Arab uprisings” started, freedoms reached an unprecedented level, but this turned into chaos later.

 

“Thus, it needed to be regulated, especially within the current regional changes and when tackling terrorism-related issues.”

 

Maaytah added that in some media institutions, especially privately owned ones, managements restrict freedoms as they take into consideration financial resources, advertisers and personal relations.

 

“They direct and restrict freedoms, based on their interests,” he told The Jordan Times.

 

Fahed Khitan, a columnist at Al Ghad daily and former chief editor of Al Arab Al Yawm, said media freedom witnessed a setback two years ago, but has been stable since then.

 

The setback, he said, is “reasonable” due to the regional political changes that require control on media to a certain extent.

 

Khitan agreed with Maaytah and Tal, noting that journalists are sometimes the ones limiting their own freedom as “some news outlets have a high level of freedom but do not know how to utilise it.”

 

Jordan Press Association President Tareq Momani said laws should be amended to ensure better media freedom. Criticising the trial of journalists at the SSC, he noted that this contradicts the Constitution.

 

Jordan improved 10 places in Freedom House’s “Freedom of the Press 2015” report, ranking 145th out of 199 countries.

 

In the report “Harsh Laws and Violence Drive Global Decline,” Jordan obtained a press freedom score of 66 and was classified as a “Not Free” country when it comes to media freedom.

 

At the Arab level, Jordan ranked fifth and was preceded by Tunisia, Lebanon, Kuwait and Algeria respectively, according to the report, recently posted on Freedom House’s website.

 

The Kingdom was followed by Morocco, Qatar, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, the UAE, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Bahrain and Syria, according to the report, which analyses the events and developments of each calendar year.

 

 

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