Will Phenomenon of Verification of Rumors and Erroneous News Become Stronger?

AKEED-Anwar Ziadat

This report glances over some rumors that have spread recently and seen a quick reaction, whether by media outlets that verified them or relevant entities that provided the necessary corrections and clarifications. The following examples are diverse in terms of their subjects and sources of rumors.

We Have Heard

The London-based Rai Al Youm website published a story titled "Jordan Again: News About Seizing Booby-Trapped Vehicle on Kerak Road at Dawn on Friday." The story said: "Rai Al Youm has heard news about the seizure of a booby-trapped vehicle, which was about to reach the city of Kerak from the southern Jordan Valley area."  This piece of information was not heard by media outlets that are closer than London; however, Jordanian news sites reported the story as published by its London source. Other sites cited a security source as saying that news about seizing a car-bomb or looking for it in Kerak was completely baseless. The source called on media outlets to seek total accuracy before publishing any information.

In other statements, the source added: "The local sources that reported the news should have confirmed it from the Public Security and should not have been satisfied with stealing a story published by a newspaper outside Jordan."

The source said that the mere fact that the word "news" is used confirms that the media outlet in question failed to carry out its role in investigation and verification of information. He said that publishing is a serious matter because it creates confusion in society and causes panic among people.

Donkey Meat

Some electronic and social media sites carried a story to the effect that the Jordanian Customs had allowed the entry of "donkey meat" for the purpose of using it in producing Siniora for one of the companies. The story included photocopies of official papers in which the words "donkey meat" appeared.

The Jordanian Customs quickly issued a clarification in a statement, saying: "The question has to do with an exit permit of goods for which a transit declaration was issued at the Aqaba Customs on 12 August 2016. The contents, according to the said statement and the customs declaration that the clearing company filled out per standard procedures, were "frozen lamb offal." As is the case when filling out any customs declaration, the tariff related to the goods and the details of the tariff item are shown. It said that the customs tariff schedule and description of goods are an international affair based on the agreement for the classification of goods."

This was later confirmed by Dr. Hayel Obeidat, director general of the Jordan Food and Drug Administration, who said that this customs item is an international description. Many countries use offal for medical purposes, and not as food. There is a general description of frozen offal, including the frozen offal of sheep. This description pertains to customs only, and is not for distribution in markets. No type of kidney of mules or donkeys is imported by Jordan.

U.S. Ambassador

Local sites and other regional sites circulated a story titled "U.S. Ambassador to Jordan Admits Mistake of Country Vis-à-vis Jordanian Assurances About Controlling Damascus." However, local sites removed the story after the U.S. Embassy in Amman denied it, while the story remained on regional and Arab sites. The story said: Alice Wells, U.S. ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, made statements at her office at the U.S. Embassy, in which she warned the Jordanian authorities of a halt to U.S. financial support shortly, saying: The United States and Jordan signed four grant agreements worth $786.8 million two years ago within the economic aid program extended to the Kingdom by Washington in return for Jordanian assurances and promises of controlling the Syrian capital, Damascus. However, three years after receiving the assurances and two years after signing the U.S. grant agreements, Jordan has failed to fulfill its promises and U.S. interests in Syria have not been achieved.

The U.S. Embassy in Amman denied what was attributed to Ambassador Alice Wells on her warning to the Jordanian authorities of a halt to U.S. financial support to the Kingdom. The Embassy said that "some electronic sites, apparently mostly outside Jordan, published a fake story titled U.S. Ambassador Admits Mistake of Country Regarding Jordanian Assurances." The Embassy noted that the entire content of this story was baseless, confirming at the end of the statement that "the United States extends $1.6 billion to Jordan in economic and military aid. This relationship will remain strong in 2017."

49 People Granted Citizenship

The Kuwaiti Central Agency for Resolving Status of Illegal Residents (Bidun) said that 49 persons had modified their status and become Jordanian citizens between early 2011 and the end of August 2016. Colonel Mohammed Al Wuhayeb, director of the department in charge of rectifying status in the agency, told the Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA) that 8,157 people had modified their status between early 2011 and the end of December 2016. The story was carried by many local news sites three months ago. 

Meanwhile, Marwan Qteishat, director general of the Civil Status and Passports Department, said that the number of persons who had obtained Jordanian citizenship over the past three years totaled 41. He strongly denied giving Jordanian citizenship to any "stateless" person. Qteishat said that the names of persons who were granted Jordanian citizenship over the past 10 years were published in the official gazette and that citizens can have access to them. He added that Jordanian law specified certain conditions for granting citizenship, most important of which is that the applicant must demonstrate good conduct and must not be handicapped. Also, he must have been a resident of Jordan for at least 15 years.