Consultations throughout Jordan seek to identify challenges faced by journalists in election coverage
Amman, Irbid, Zarqa and Karak participate in a consultation forum to debate and improve journalistic coverage of elections. This initiative is part of UNESCO’s project ‘Enhancing Professional and Accurate Media in the Electoral Process in Jordan', funded by the European Union.
Journalists from major media outlets in Jordan and professionals from the Independent Electoral Commission, IEC, Petra University and Jordan Media Institute have convened at a national consultation to deliberate ways to improve the media coverage of elections. The outcomes of the consultation will serve to build a Road Map of challenges and of strategies to improve journalistic practice in Jordan with regard to the coverage of elections.
“The journalistic coverage of elections is more than a news-story, as electoral processes involve crucial decisions about the future of a nation. This initiative is an unprecedented opportunity for media professionals in Jordan to have a say about the challenges they face when covering elections and will lead to the development of new mechanisms that would facilitate their work in the future,” said Dr. Anna Paolini, Head of UNESCO Amman Office and UNESCO Representative to Jordan.
Some of the issues that arose during the consultation include the role of media in educating and informing voters and monitoring media violations during the coverage of elections. Principles such as objectivity, fairness and the ‘four roles’ of journalists in elections – watchdog, mediator between the government and the public, peace foster and information disseminator – led most of the debates. In addition, gender sensitive reporting and the portrayal of women during electoral processes occupied a major part of the discussions.
"One of the main issues that journalists covering elections normally face is the lack of qualification together with the low awareness about the electoral law", assessed Adnan Nassar, a journalist from Al Arab Al Yaum participating in the forum held in Irbid. "There is also a need for an efficient body to regulate the exercise of media and its performance" added Mohamed Al-Nawrasi, from Amen FM.
The use of media by political parties was also one of the subjects raised in the debates, in reference to the parliamentary elections held in January 2013, the participants pointed out that “3 TV channels and 7 websites were owned by political parties”.
Improving access to information during elections was another topic underlined by most of the forum participants. To this regard, Bashar Qeblan, from Radio Jordan, asserted that "social media was the most valuable source of information during elections."
Besides this consultation, UNESCO’s 'Enhancing Professional Media on the Electoral Process' project includes other innovative components such as training workshops, coaching and exercises on investigative journalism and awareness practices. UNESCO is the sole UN specialized agency with a mandate to foster professional and ethical practice of journalism as an essential element to promote democracy, dialogue and development. The Organization builds upon two-decades of experience on supporting journalists on electoral processes.