NCHR Report on Parliamentary Elections:

No Coverage on Official TV; Variation in Media Handling Incomprehensible

AKEED, Wasfi Khushman

Jordan Television has not provided coverage of the report on monitoring parliamentary elections for 2016, which was released by the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR) at a news conference held on Wednesday, 19 April. Media interest in the report, which contained observations by the NCHR, has varied. The NCHR formed a national coalition comprising more than 220 civil entities to monitor the elections, which were held on 20 September 2016.

Some media outlets highlighted the report and provided prominent coverage of it in their newscasts, hardcopy editions, and electronic sites. Meanwhile, other media provided little or no coverage of the report. 

According to the observations of the Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED), the Jordan News Agency (Petra) was the first to carry the proceedings of the news conference. Its coverage highlighted the statements of NCHR Commissioner General Dr. Musa Breizat. It briefly mentioned the recommendations and violations contained in the report, especially "tampering with the ballot boxes of the Central Bedouin District," and "the influence of money and vote buying."

Al Rai newspaper reported on the release of the report, citing Petra. It used the headline "NCHR Releases Report on Parliamentary Elections." It is the same headline used by Petra.

The interesting thing is that the first page of the number one newspaper in the Kingdom did not contain any reference to the report. The newspaper was satisfied with publishing it on its second page. It occupied quarter of a page at the bottom and was without any photo. Like Al Rai, Al Dustour newspaper only quoted Petra in reporting on the release of the report. However, it highlighted it on its first page under the headline "Breizat: What Happened at Central Bedouin District Flaw in Electoral Process and Tampering With Will of Voters." The details of the story occupied sufficient space on the top of page 8, along with a photo of the speakers at the news conference.

Al Ghad newspaper handled the release of the report differently. The coverage was on the first page under the headline "NCHR: Constitutional Suspicions Mar Electoral System." It summed up the key observations mentioned in the report.

Al Ghad also devoted half of page 5 to the coverage under a long banner headline that read as follows: "NCHR: What Happened at Central Bedouin District Strips Parliamentary Elections of Fairness." It included a photo of the speakers at the news conference.

The coverage of Al Ghad provided details of the tampering with the ballot boxes in the Central Bedouin District and reported briefly on the other observations.

Al Sabeel newspaper distinguished its coverage of the release of the report by highlighting it on its first page in red under the headline "NCHR Accuses Government of Failure Vis-à-vis Political Money." The newspaper devoted more than half of page 3 to the details of the report, along with a large photo and prominent headlines.

Unlike Al Ghad, Al Sabeel did not devote large space to coverage of the tampering with the boxes in the Central Bedouin District. However, it published the 19 recommendations in full.

Al Anbat newspaper and its website contained no coverage of the report at all.

At least two channels, which are Ro"ya TV and Yarmouk TV, broadcast two reports on the main highlights of the NCHR report. Meanwhile, it was not possible to monitor the local radios and see how they covered the release of the report.

Electronic sites varied in reporting on the details of the news conference on the release of the report.

Ahmad Faheem, media officer at the NCHR, agreed that the variation in local media handling of the release of the report could not be understood, especially since the report was issued by the highest national organization concerned with human rights in the Kingdom. Faheem regretted the absence of the official television from covering this "national" event despite the fact that "it was told several times and an official letter was sent to them. However, they (television officials) insisted on not attending without justification."

He added: We will have municipal elections and decentralization soon. The official media or those deemed part of the official trend "should have given the NCHR report sufficient attention as a prelude to issuing later reports."

According to what was published by the website of the NCHR in covering the news conference, Dr. Musa Breizat, commissioner general of the NCHR, criticized the lack of cooperation by the concerned parties, including officials and others, with the efforts of the NCHR to learn about the truth and declare it.

He added: "The NCHR is aware of the exceptional circumstances related to the flaw and tampering with a number of boxes in the Central Bedouin District, which will require the return of the 17th Lower House of Parliament had the announcement of the final results of the 18th Lower House of Parliament been delayed beyond 28 September 2016. However, what happened in this district is a flaw in the electoral process in this district and reflects tampering with the will of voters."

Parliamentary elections were held on 20 September based on the law of the so-called "proportional lists," which was issued around 23 years after following the so-called "single vote" law issued in 1993, with a slight amendment in 2013 that added a vote to national lists in the elections to the 17th parliament.

AKEED observes that the absence of official media outlets, which are supposed to represent a public media service, from covering an independent report issued by a national institution that was established based on the law is a professional flaw and is suspected to reflect a political position. The media outlets of the state (public service) have the duty of informing citizens of everything that is happening professionally and depending on accuracy, balance, and independence.