Index of "Reporters Without Borders" Absent From Daily Newspapers; Highlighted by Websites

AKEED, Osama Rawajfeh

Jordanian daily newspapers, in their hardcopy editions published today, 27 April, made no reference to the World Press Freedom Index issued by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), on which Jordan has fallen three places in 2016 and ranked 138. In 2015, Jordan had ranked 135 out of 180 countries, which the organization lists in its annual report.

One daily newspaper ran a general summary of the report, issued on Wednesday, 26 April, on its website under the headline "Reporters Without Borders: Press Freedom Threatened More Than Ever Before." The summary was published on its "Arabs and World" page, without referring to the local aspect of the report pertaining to Jordan"s ranking on the index, which categorizes countries as follows:  Good (white), fairly good (yellow), problematic (orange), bad (red) and very bad (black). Jordan is in the "red" category. 

Unlike the daily newspapers, news websites highlighted the results of the report. However, some websites mentioned the report in general without referring to Jordan"s ranking, while other websites, including one affiliated with a private television channel, focused on its local aspect and reviewed the situation of press freedoms in Jordan.

While the results of the 2017 report of the international organization were ignored, the situation was different in 2016 when the daily newspapers and other Jordanian media outlets hailed the report, which showed the progress made then by Jordan on the Press Freedom Index of the same organization. The Kingdom ranked 135 in 2015, achieving improvement by six places compared with 2014, in which Jordan had ranked 141, and not 143, as several media outlets reported at the time. 

Jordan has seen varying degrees of decline on the RSF Press Freedom Index over the past six years, which witnessed improvement in one year only. In 2011, the ranking was 120; however, it worsened to become 128 in 2012. In 2013, Jordan ranked 134 and continued to retreat in 2014 to reach 141. In 2015, it showed improvement again by six places and became 135 internationally. It then lost three places in 2016.

Government and official agencies have not reacted to the results of the RSF report. However, a daily newspaper published an exclusive statement by Dr. Mohammad Momani, minister of state for media affairs and official spokesman for the government, on the next day after the report was issued, in which he affirmed that "the government is committed to providing information based on transparency and clarity; monopolizing information is gone once and for all." He reiterated the government"s bid to arrive at "a state of free and professional media."

This official statement, whose occasion and reasons have not been identified, cannot be read as a response to the RSF report, which had the title "2017 Press Freedom Index - Ever Darker World Map." Nevertheless, its context suggests that it defends the status of press and media freedoms in Jordan in general.

The legislative and political framework in Jordan is the same one that governs the work of different media. However, the variation in determining "what should be published and what should not" clearly shows the absence of real assessment of information and the right of the public to know. It is not necessarily related to the extent of freedom given to publishing. This raises a question about the future of the printed press and its impact on readers in light of the revolution of information technology.