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16 Nov 2011
Journalist Casualties: 0
Media Staff Casualties: 0
Under Investigation: 0
No less than 90 attacks against journalists in Jordan have taken place since the beginning of the year. This figure is one of the highest in our country's history.
Other Arab countries also witnessed sharp increases in the number of attacks against journalists since the beginning of the Arab Spring.
Arab journalists, it seems, are paying a heavy price so that their societies gain more freedom. They are at the forefront of the battle against corruption and autocracy in the Arab world. It comes as no surprise that journalists are being targeted and singled out by defenders of both governments and the status quo.
They are caught in an unenviable position, between the rock of governments that are willing to go to any length to silence the opposition and the hard place of communities that resist change.
The future of the new Arab world will be glorious mainly because Arab journalists are ready to pay the required price for the advancement of their societies.
Jordanian journalists have been victims of both 'official' measures and of 'popular' acts of aggression, accompanied by verbal and physical threats. They have been attacked and banned from covering demonstrations organized by both opposition and 'loyalist' parties.
Some official entities (or individuals acting on their behalf) were adamant about preventing journalists from covering the demonstrations, deluding themselves into believing that this was the best way to keep the story from spreading.
Some segments of society also expressed anger over and dissatisfaction with the way some newspapers covered certain developments and events. Their anger then turned into threats and acts of aggression against journalists and news outlets.
It is alarming when journalists and newspapers are attacked by ordinary citizens because it is these same people who should rise to the defence of journalists when they are targeted or when they are banned from carrying out their professional duties.
Journalists, after all, conduct their duties in implantation of a written mandate from the people to inform them on what is going on in society. It is, therefore, quite serious when these same people turn against journalists or resort to violence and threats to stop the press from carrying out its professional responsibilities.
Journalists might commit mistakes while covering news. Committing mistakes is part and parcel of a profession that is caught in a constant race against time and an endless attempt to beat deadlines. Given this fact, people should be informed that they have the legal and moral right to rectify information and express their opinion by writing back to newspapers.
Resorting to threats or violence will not solve things. It will only complicate matters and attract more attention around 'faulty' stories.
Recent attacks and threats against journalists by ordinary citizens also serve to highlight the importance and need to set up a national press complaints commission. When an outlet where people can vent their anger and air their grievances against the media is available, journalists will be less likely to be exposed to violence or threats.
It is quite unfortunate that all attempts to remind the press of its moral responsibilities have come to nothing, and we are constantly reminded of this tragic deficiency in our media scene day in, day out without taking any action.
As it is always the case, we will most likely begin to think seriously about setting up an entity to uphold professional and ethical standards for the media sector only when a serious incident occurs. But does it have to be always this way?
The right time to act is now, before it is too late. Press freedom is a source of pride for our country and it should be maintained and strengthened, but freedom without moral and ethical guidelines can be a very destructive force. Something should be done immediately to rectify this faulty situation without delay.
The writer, email@example.com, is former minister of state for media affairs and communications.
Source: Jordan Times website