16.05.2019 - UNESCO Office in Amman

UNESCO and Al Rai commemorate World Press Freedom Day 2019


Amman, 15 May 2019 – UNESCO, in collaboration with Jordan Press Foundation (Al Rai), commemorated this year’s World Press Freedom Day with a series of workshops and an evening event, in Amman. This year’s global theme of ‘Media for democracy: journalism and elections in times of disinformation’, provoked discussion surrounding the current challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.

UNESCO Representative to Jordan, Ms. Costanza Farina, delivered opening remarks, welcoming guests and reflecting on the celebration. “Under our global theme, today’s workshop series has offered youth from across Jordan a chance to focus on freedom of expression in times of disinformation. These timely sessions strive to strengthen their collective ability to confront disinformation, while raising awareness of ‘information disorder’".

On behalf of the European Union, Head of the Political Section at the EU delegation, Mr. Egidijus Navikas, shared opening remarks, "With the ongoing ‘Youth Empowerment’ project in Jordan, the EU aims to advance Media and Information Literacy as a holistic response to disinformation, hate speech and related challenges". The celebration was sponsored in part by the EU-funded “Youth Empowerment” project, currently being implemented with UNESCO and key partners.

HE Jumana Ghunaimat, Minister of State for Media Affairs, delivered a keynote address, emphasizing the Government’s commitment to empowering media outlets and addressing the spread of rumors on social media platforms. “Media and Information Literacy doesn’t aim to limit freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the law and we need to teach our young people how to differentiate between true and false information. We believe that professional, responsible journalism is critical”.

Following the speeches, a lively panel discussion took place, moderated by UNESCO Programme Officer, Ms. Ikhlas Al Khawaldeh. The discussion emphasized the important role of media in countering disinformation, cyberbullying and online hate speech.

HE Erik Ullenhag, Ambassador of Sweden to Jordan participated in the discussion, which centered around the relationship between press and democracy. “One of the main pillars of Sweden’s policy towards the region is to support and advance human rights. A core priority of this is the development of independent quality media. We strongly believe that access to public information, investigative journalism and channels for freedom of expression and debate are essential to democratic development. We will continue our support for freedom of expression in Jordan and the Middle East. Jordan has, with its history, solid ground towards taking the necessary steps to fully respect the freedom of expression. The Middle East desperately needs that kind of leadership”.

Ms. Rawan Damen, filmmaker and media consultant, addressed the challenges of navigating digital disinformation, voicing concern about fake news on social media. “Information verification and fact-checking are key skills that each journalist and content producer requires; they are no longer complementary, but essential and indispensable".

Mr. Omar Al Abdallat, a cartoonist who often focuses on the issue of press freedom, shared, “Cartoonists must be careful before drawing caricatures, taking into account the implications of their drawings, because when these are shared with the public, they may have a strong impact".

Leading up to the high-level evening event, a series of workshops were held at Al Rai’s Media Training Centre. The sessions addressed aspects of freedom of expression, including journalistic biases, notions of balance in the news and the importance of strong media and information literacy skills. The workshops attracted a total of 22 university students specializing in media and journalism and were delivered by three prominent media experts.

Concluding the event, Mr. Ayman Majali, former Minister of State for Media Affairs, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Al Rai delivered closing remarks, “We, at Al Rai, are keen on working with the government and all relevant stakeholders on reviewing the legislation governing freedom of expression. We confirm that we support efforts dedicated towards furthering the independence of media institutions, in addition to enhancing the transparency and flow of information which we believe is the best way to combat hate speech and rumours. We continue to work towards reinforcing the state of equal opportunities, flow of information, and trust in public awareness, journalists and media institutions”.

The public event was streamed live, fueling a national conversation on social media about how journalism can rise above disinformation and fake news. In total, more than 130 participants, including representatives from civil society, media, professional associations, universities and embassies attended the event. Additional support for the celebration was provided by the Embassy of Sweden in Amman, and Al-Ahliyya Amman University.

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