A news report posted on an undocumented English-speaking blog called al-Sura on 29 December 2017 under the headline "Jordan"s King Arrests Brothers and Cousin in Suspected Saudi-Led Coup" has become a main source for mostly English-speaking news websites without confirming the information contained in it or conducting the minimum steps of verification. The report of al-Sura is attributed to its "news desk" and does not carry the name of its author. Al-Sura identifies itself as an open space for writing by a group of bloggers. The report tries to interpret the decision to retire Prince Feisal Bin Al Hussein, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, and Prince Talal Bin Mohammad from the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) by confusing information with analysis without relying on a clear source. It merely cites an interpretation denied by the Royal Hashemite Court in a statement issued on Saturday, 30 December 2017.
The Royal Court has warned against spreading "rumors, claims, and lies" that offend Prince Feisal Bin Al Hussein, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, and Prince Talal Bin Mohammad, vowing to take legal action against violators. The Royal Court said that "some websites and social media circulated fabricated and tendentious rumors and false claims that spread lies against their royal highnesses the princes," stressing that these rumors "will not undermine national unity and the solid and strong relationship between the Jordanian people and the Hashemite family."
Al-Sura identifies itself as an independent platform, or blog, for citizen journalists, social media activists, and independent analysts, focusing on Iraq and the Middle East. The word "sura" in Arabic means proof, sign, or high status. Also, a chapter in the Koran is called sura.
The website of the blog, its Twitter account (11,835 followers), and YouTube channel (8,158 followers) do not provide any address or physical location. Moreover, an Internet search did not yield information about its location, which suggests that it is a personal blog that is not subject to any professional standard.
Although the blog says that it has been in existence since 2015, a tracing carried out by AKEED shows that it was registered on 27 September 2017. Besides, the oldest report posted on it dates back to 10 October 2017. When AKEED tried to discover the identity of the owner of the blog, it turned out that the website had concealed this information. Hosting websites allow for hiding ownership information upon paying a larger fee.
The blog contains only 32 news and analytical posts, including 27 reports published under "Middle East," while there are no posts under the "Opinion" and "Multimedia" columns. There is one report only under the "Culture" column, and four can be found under the "Analysis" column. All the reports and analyses in the blog are unsigned; they appear under "news desk" only, which conflicts with its own description that it is a platform open to citizen journalists and activists.
Reports published in international media outlets on the Jordanian decision to retire the three princes from the JAF have relied on the text of the post on al-Sura. Other websites paraphrased this information, while attributing it to the same blog. This reflects politicization of media content, which means trying to manipulate information or media content for political purposes that could be clear or vague and that serve the aims of a party, which is most probably mysterious or undeclared.
There are two main observations concerning this coverage. First, professional media outlets that have a history of professionalism and credibility, whether internationally or regionally, have not published this material. The outlets that published this report by relying on al-Sura blog are mostly little-known news websites. Second, the websites that quoted al-Sura belong to one of two types: Either Israeli websites and others considered to be pro-right wing, which are loyal to Israel and had previously published fake news about Jordan; or news websites that are loyal to one of the parties to regional alliances that have been engaged in media wars for a while.
Below are the key English-speaking media outlets and websites that carried or relied on the report of al-Sura blog in handling the news about the retirement of the three princes from the JAF. All the reports were published after the posting of al-Sura"s report.
//storia.me/en/@DibyenduR/king-of-jordan-arrests-47p8wo">King Of Jordan Arrests Own Brothers For Links To Saudi Arabia
Despite the fact that the blog is unreliable when it comes to handling news and press reports, it was noticeable that Google News sent the report that was posted on al-Sura to many mobile phones, especially those that have Android operating system. It also disseminated a report on the same subject posted on an Israeli website.
Google News depends on an algorithm that aggregates news from various media outlets and makes it available to users. This raises a question about the contribution of this Google service to spreading erroneous and misleading news.
One of the fallacies mentioned by al-Sura"s report and carried by international English-speaking media outlets concerns the arrest of the three princes. This is something that can be confirmed if media outlets speak to senior sources, let alone the fact that the report has ignored a lot of the interpretations that put the retirement in context as part of the restructuring of the JAF, which His Majesty King Abdullah II ordered Staff Lieutenant General Mahmoud Freihat, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the JAF, to carry out upon his appointment to this position in October 2016.
Arabic media outlets have not been observed to behave differently. Many of them published reports, copying the post on al-Sura website. Meanwhile, websites of external newspapers relied on the same information contained in the report without mentioning the source. Also, other newspapers and websites carried reports, citing Arab Times, which, in turn, relied on the information of al-Sura blog.
Since the declaration by U.S. President Donald Trump of Jerusalem as capital of the Israeli occupation state and his plan to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, different media outlets have published fabricated news and reports that speak about Jordanian-Arab differences against the background of the Jordanian move to counter Trump"s decision. AKEED documented these in a previous report.
A senior Jordanian official source had affirmed in press statements that the decision of King Abdullah II to retire three princes from military service was "normal" and that "the three princes had moved up in the chain of command, like other Jordanians, until they reached the most senior ranks in the military." The source noted that "Jordan has special relations with Arab and friendly countries. However, there are little-known parties (the source did not name them) that are trying to politicize the issue." The source concluded that "the media has turned into a means of undermining countries and their positions. Jordan"s recent position toward many issues has been advanced. This is especially the case regarding Jerusalem at the Islamic summit in Istanbul."
AKEED thinks that the reliance on undocumented blogs by foreign and Arabic media outlets is an unprofessional practice, which involves exaggeration and promoting rumors in light of the vagueness of sources of information within the context of press coverage.