Government Change, Reshuffle: Seasonal News From Anonymous Sources Under Sensational Headlines

AKEED, Anwar Ziadat

In a seasonal tradition, local news websites have over the past days circulated news about an imminent change or reshuffle of the government of Prime Minister Dr. Hani Mulki. News about the change also involved Royal Court Chief Fayez Tarawneh. The news, attributed to anonymous sources, sometimes contained contradictions and differences that reflect a lack of accuracy and credibility.

The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) observed that news websites have published more than 30 news items since the beginning of January on this issue. This is the period that followed the Lower House of Parliament"s approval of the General Budget Law of 2018.

The main feature of this news is that it relied on anonymous, vague, and unclear sources, such as knowledgeable sources; political parlors, side talks, and observers; knowledgeable parliamentary sources; reliable political sources; close associates of Mulki; according to investigation and exploration; sources, facts, and information; a source close to Prime Minister Dr. Hani Mulki; speculation amid political circles; reliable political sources; and informed sources.

News about a cabinet reshuffle generates interest among followers. Therefore, news websites hasten to publish this information, quoting anonymous and vague sources, because they find it easy and they do not wish to look for sources. This practice, which is clear to those who follow what is published by news websites, is often very misleading.

It is also noticed that some news seeks to focus on specific persons and to propose their names. Some people believe this is intentional for the purpose of the reshuffle. Meanwhile, some news focuses on criticizing the performance of some government entities through depending on personal views in news items.

Followers further find contradictions and differences in the details of some items that are posted by the same website. Take, for example, a number of items published by one website over a period of 14 days: "Anticipated Cabinet Reshuffle, Structuring of Senior Posts," "No Change, Reshuffle on the Horizon…Who Stands To Benefit From Sensationalism?" "Will Mulki Reshuffle Government Again?" "Jordan Waiting for King"s Return From Important Trip Abroad…Expectations," "Mulki Government To Stay With "Forced Reshuffle"…Tarawneh To Leave," and "Three Possible Names To Lead Royal Court… "Aggrieved General" Main Candidate."

The contradiction in the information and headlines provided by the same website suggests that the website is trying to appeal to the public at the expense of accuracy and credibility. This means that the reliable or informed sources, to which the website is attributing its news, are not trustworthy as they are promoting inaccurate information.

Promoting certain names or excluding others could have another objective than that of the media, which is to convey credible facts and news to the public.

The cabinet change and reshuffle were discussed under many headlines: "Government Change Led by Samir Rifai, Return of General Majali to Interior Ministry; Will There Be Imminent Reshuffle of Mulki"s Cabinet?" "Amid Demands for Government Reshuffle, Sources: Mulki To Introduce Cabinet Reshuffle Involving Five Portfolios," "Mulki Government To Stay With "Forced Reshuffle"…Tarawneh To Leave," "Mulki Steers Clear of Cabinet Reshuffle…Close to Large-Scale Changes Involving Directors of Corporations, Government Departments," "Speculation About Reshuffle of Mulki Government," "Demands for Government Change," "Sources: Mulki To Introduce Cabinet Reshuffle Involving Five Portfolios," "In Names…Those Are Strongest Candidates To Succeed Mulki Government," "Despite Poor Government Performance, Mulki Will Continue To Head Government in Next Stage," "Files Pending "Royal Decision"," "Mulki Seeking Cabinet Reshuffle…New Chief of Royal Court," and "Expected Names To Head Royal Court To Succeed Tarawneh…Mulki To Stay."

This news sometimes suggested expected names, but the large number of names reveals the lack of accurate information. One of the websites expected in the same report that the next prime minister would be one of the following: Samir Rifai, former prime minister; Hussein Hazza Majali, former interior minister and former Public Security director; Nasser Lawzi, former chief of the Royal Court; Nasser Judeh, former foreign minister; Dr. Mamduh Abbadi, deputy prime minister; Faisal Shobaki, adviser to his majesty the king for national security; Dr. Marouf Bakhit, vice president of the Senate; Faisal Fayez, president of the Senate; and Fayez Tarawneh, chief of the Royal Court.

Upon reviewing all these names, we conclude that mentioning them is nothing but speculation and that there is no information to be provided to the public. Linking names to political parlors and not mentioning names to which news is attributed makes websites lose their credibility and the confidence of the public in their ability to reach facts through their own sources.

AKEED thinks that the dependence of news websites on rumors and anonymous sources harms the standard of accuracy and that publishing about the government reshuffle and presenting items as news raises the probability of political utilization of the media sometimes, which is a clear professional violation, by relying on speculation.

Media outlets are inclined to use information attributed to anonymous sources to make what they publish about this issue appealing. In this case, actual sources, which refuse to be named, get mixed up with the "sources" that a media outlet claims to have requested anonymity and to which journalists attribute their own positions and analyses. Ultimately, the standards of accuracy and credibility are the victims.