Media Environment Analysis for Jordan
The Constitution of 1952 recognizes the right to freedom of expression and the media, and in the early 1990s, a Royal commission confirmed these commitments with the publication of the National Charter supporting freedom of expression, access to information and the role of the media. Jordan is also a party to key international declarations and covenants guaranteeing freedom of expression, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However, an assessment of Jordan's media law framework based on UNESCO Media Development Indicators reveals there are a number of ways in which free speech and the rights of media are undermined in legislation, regulations and practice.
The Jordanian media environment is relatively diverse and pluralist, but often reporters lack adequate capacity, ignore professional standards, indulge in self-censorship because of biases, employers’ affiliations, fear of legal consequences if not sometimes fear of physical threats in a context of impunity and lack of accountability by duty-bearers. Media professionals are also aware of “red-lines-not-to-cross” (if not taboo topics), mostly related to the monarchy as well as to religious and ethnic issues. In Reporters Without Borders’ 2012 World Press Freedom Index, Jordan was ranked 128th out of 179 countries and its rating had worsened since the previous year.
Satellite TV channels are popular in Jordan, like elsewhere in the MENA region, and the Jordanian Media Center is acting as a regional production hub for satellite outlets. The penetration of Internet in Jordan has been growing in the past five years with two-digit figures, and now Internet is used by about a third of the population according to Internet World Stats, with the largest majority of online users who are also registered on social-media networks.
Professionalism of journalists in Jordan is not consistent with international standards and best practices. Investigative reporting and the reporting of topics of common interest such as the environment, gender equality and human rights are not encouraged. Moreover, journalism is not considered to be an important course of study at universities, often attracting lower scoring students. There are only very few institutions providing degrees in journalism often based on outdated curricula. Media training institutions and faculties have limited capacities to promote quality journalism education, which is quintessential towards professional and ethical practice of journalism. Regarding gender issues, there is a strong imbalance among media professionals (some 81% men against 19% women), and little awareness on gender-sensitive reporting.
While undertaking recent electoral and political reforms, the Jordanian Government and King Abdullah II have re-confirmed their intention to reform the legislative environment affecting the media, and searched for international expertise. Nevertheless, a controversial amendment to the Jordanian press and publication law was endorsed in 2012 that can censor content and hold journalists liable for posted online content.
A specific request by the Government of Jordan had been submitted to UNESCO as specialized agency in the field of freedom of expression to provide an assessment. In consultation with media organizations, UNESCO developed a “Policy Advice to Government of Jordan” on how to improve media environment and promote freedom of the press, which was handed over to the Government in July 2011. UNESCO had proved as a professional and experienced partner to international donors through its efforts towards media reform and democratization, assessing the media environment in Jordan and recommending action towards the gaps present in the sector, whether in terms of capacity development and enhancing media professionalism, or the legislative part and legal framework amendments. In this regard, the EU currently funds the one-year UNESCO project “Enhancing Professional and Accurate Media Reporting on the Electoral Process” and is negotiating the support of another 4-year project to start in the second quarter of 2013 entitled “Support to Democratisation, Civil Society and Media in Jordan”.