Professional violations by Jordanian TV Presenters

Akeed Platform - Majdi Goussous - Local TV broadcasters are the first building block in building - or destroying - trust between the public and media, as a result of repeated mistakes and negative, unprofessional messages.

Repeated mistakes made by TV/Radio anchors are due to his/her unprofessionalism or lack of awareness of the nature of their profession, and inaccurately presenting information, and turning their program into a platform to express their own point of view, forgetting one of the most prominent media caveats to any anchor, namely, avoiding biases and keeping an equal distance from all parties.

Ms. Bayan Tal, Advisor and Director of the Media Literacy Program at the Jordan Media Institute, says that the primary mission of journalists is to provide honest and accurate information, and to ensure it is accurate, especially in light of the wide-spread rumors. She added that journalists are also responsible for holding officials and institutions accountable, while also steering clear of passing judgments or making unfounded accusations.

Recently, while monitoring coverage of the current "Coronavirus" crisis by local channels, "Akeed" media monitor found several professional and ethical violations by a number of presenters. These include: A Jordanian female presenter of a program at a local TV channel, shared an "article" that talks about the conditions of quarantined Palestinians, specifically at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip.  She said they were "penned in sheepcotes/folds".

Akeed checked the dictionary to check if term was correctly used. We found that "mazroob" in Arabic (penned/trapped) is used as a description for sheepcote/sheepfolds, which means that the anchor committed a professional and ethical violation in her description of the "quarantined"; thus, amounting to denigration, contempt and insult to the human feeling of the sick.

Ms. Tal stated that the anchor criticized a people under "occupation and siege", and this is an inappropriate and unacceptable behavior, adding that her comments amounted to “hate speech” against a people "dear and friendly" to Jordan.

When this presenter drew a comparison between the conditions of quarantine in other countries and the conditions of the quarantine in Jordan, she described those people as having "lost their senses". Her comments have in fact caused them psychological and social harm and demoralized them.

Tal added that the anchorwoman could have praised Jordan without offending other countries, noting that the anchor's body language also reflected her apathy and condescending attitude.

Another female anchor who interviewed the Minister of Health about the developments of the "Coronavirus", used several phrases, including: "There are people who have so far failed to understand," and "It is clear that some people are concealing that they are infected or suspected of being infected," thus criticizing others and passing judgments. The presenter failed to steer clear of types of questions that appear to prejudge and undermine people’s intelligence. She asked: “Do people not understand the seriousness of the situation?”.

Her unprofessionalism also extended to her body language which lacked decorum and tact, especially that she was addressing a a political figure. In the 23rd minute of the interview, she pointed and waved her palm at him saying, “Today, you are probably the most wanted person to be asked to talk in Jordan.”

 Another announcer concluded one of his programs with what he described as a "booby-trapped message" to individuals he did not name, stressing the need for them to donate to support the state in its fight against "Coronavirus". He committed a professional violation by transforming his program into a platform to express his point of view and mobilizing public opinion against a group of people that the audience would identify on their own.

Tal says that it would have been more appropriate for the announcer to host an expert who would display the wealth of people or institutions, and the percentage of donations they made during the year. But, to belittle contributions by individuals or institutions in this way can “only be explained as populism, appealing to people’s emotions, and stirring up prejudices that we don’t need.”  

And she notes that criticizing members of society and "implication of favors" will not help individuals understand the preventive measures, or the impact of what is happening on the Jordanian economy, and the importance of respecting laws and regulations, "and these are practices that fuel racism and amount to hate speech."

Tal sees that the most serious danger facing media professionals today is the search for “populism” that reinforces their vanity and drives them to commit foolish acts. This, she adds undermines the profession, as the journalist is not an activist. She stressed that the journalists or broadcasters can employ their personal convictions in their own world, and not while wearing their media hat.

Akeed (Media Monitor) reminds of the professional standards of press coverage, and professional practices by broadcasters which include: not to take sides even if the subject matter concerns his/her country of origin, and not be arrogant so that viewers do not feel the superiority exercised by the presenter, and the need to be prepared and to write down content in order to be express themselves well and avoid making mistakes. They should also avoid criticizing, or playing the role of a fighter, whether by vilification or praise.