21.07.2016 - UNESCO Office in Amman

Officials debate proposed amendments to several media laws

@UNESCO/Lidija Sabados

Amman, 19 July 2016 – From 11-13 July, UNESCO facilitated three sessions at the Media Commission (MC) to discuss details of proposed amendments to several pieces of media legislation. The sessions followed the successful workshops in May of this year, where the reviews of the Audio-Visual Law (AVL), the Press and Publications Law (PPL) and Access to Information Law (ATI) were presented. Since then, the MC asked UNESCO to provide further expertise and to suggest specific changes to the by-laws to the AVL, as well as amendments to the AVL and PPL. Toby Mendel, UNESCO consultant and international expert on media law, who is also the author of recent legal reviews, led the discussion, along with Yahia Shukkheir, UNESCO’s national consultant.

“UNESCO is glad to provide requested expertise and be able to facilitate these discussions, upon request from the MC. The leadership of the MC has been instrumental in moving the process forward and we are pleased to continue working together in our joint effort to increase media freedom in the country,” stated Biljana Tatomir, Senior Project Officer of the Support to Media in Jordan project.

On 11 and 12 July, participants discussed proposed amendments to the AVL and its bylaws, including proposed changes related to the independence of the regulatory body, the responsibility of licensees, what is defined as recorded material, what is defined as circulation of recorded material, duties for chair and board, as well as anti-monopoly rules, among others.

Government representatives from the Prime Ministry, the Media Commission, the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC), as well as representatives from the National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR), Jordan Media City and public media participated in the event.

“Because my background is technical, I am concentrating on contributing some technical points to the discussion. They gave us the time to comment and they take those comments into consideration,” said Ahmad Tamimi, of Jordan Media City.

“This process is very fruitful, and so many entities from society have an opportunity to have an input into the amendment process. The biggest challenge now of course is to incorporate everyone’s views into the final amendments,” added Maha Ziad Muasher from the TRC.

On the final day, the focus of discussion was the PPL, and specific discussions related to the registration of news websites, as well as the Article requiring journalists to be members of the Jordan Press Association.

“One particular challenge is that we are going through a transitional period in Jordan with the upcoming elections,” noted Nahla Al Momani from the NCHR. Ms Momani also emphasized that some amendments may be more controversial than others and that consensus would be more easily achieved on amendments to the AVL and its bylaws.

“The proposed amendments greatly expand media freedom, but when increasing the ceiling of media freedom we always encounter security concerns. The will to change and accept the amendments is another key challenge we face,” she added.

The discussions produced further material on which to build on, and UNESCO will take the recommendations into account while supporting the process to amend the laws in line with international standards. The three meetings fall under the improvement to the legal framework component of the EU funded Support to Media in Jordan project. Throughout the entire process, UNESCO has cooperated closely with the Ministry of State for Media Affairs.

UNESCO’s legal reviews of the three pieces of legislation are available in English and Arabic.

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