Towards professional journalism
babelmed - 15/01/2011
In Jordan, journalism is not considered to be an important course of study. Usually, lower scoring baccalaureate students are those who choose the path of journalism (in Jordan, in order to get accepted into certain fields, students should have earned high score at the end of their school study, like honours degree in French education system). In 2009, Al-Quds Center for Political Studies released a study about media and censorship. Only 23% of about 1500 Jordanian journalists possess a university degree. Yahia Shukheir is a journalist at Al-Arab al-Yaum newspaper and a trainer at the Media institute: “When fresh graduate students arrive at our newspaper, I don’t send them immediately to cover press conferences. I have to train them during several months. It is also to be noted that Jordanian universities are ill-equipped. For instance, in 2008, the University of Yarmuk had only 20 computers for 1000 students.” Not to mention that Jordanian press association does not offer training sessions.
Since many years, prominent figures are calling for a better journalism in Jordan. Former renowned journalist Princess Rym Ali carried out the project. Prior to marrying Prince Ali, she worked extensively for international broadcasters, including CNN, where she began as a producer in 1998 and later worked as a Baghdad correspondent from 2001 until 2004. The European Union gave its support to this institute through the Ministry of Planning of Jordan. Improving the quality of journalism and reporting would help enhance public access to information – a basic right and European principle - and promote transparency and accountability. EU funding amounted to 940,000 Euros over a period of two years (May 2008 - May 2010). Refusing to publish its annual budget, the institute’s spokespersons say only that the organization receives private and public funds.
Jordan Media Institute launched its activities in 2008. The board of directors of the institute is composed of leading figures, including former journalists and media personnel in order to respond to media market needs in Jordan. 20 students are to be recruited this year. Equipped with TV and radio studios, computers with access to press agencies’ news and Internet connection, the institute constitutes a real training journalism center. Students are asked to make TV and radio reports. An agreement was concluded with public Jordanian TV station (Jordan TV) to broadcast their work. Apart from the Master’s program, the JMI provides targeted training sessions for professionals and ministries spokespersons.
The institute intends to prove itself too on the regional level. First of its kind, it aspires to attract students from Lebanon and Iraq. “We would like to develop an independent and professional journalism in the region. Our success will be based on the quality of our programs and the average of students who will find a job at the end of their studies.” Director of Jordan Media Institute Rania Barakat explains that JMI is the only center in the region to offer journalism program studies in Arabic and a Master’s program.
Is there a political will to establish an independent journalism in Jordan? The answer is yes, according to the director of the institute: “H. M. King Abdallah II intends to promote free press.” Except that the study published by Al-Quds Institute gives a different view. In 2008, freedom of press in Jordan attained 5.9 on a scale of ten. Interviewed journalists speak about self-censorship in media, or “soft containment”. Not only the state is putting pressure on journalists, but also private enterprises and political groups. One third of the Jordanian journalists said that they were subjected to censorship during the last three years, either by information retention or prohibition of publication, or even threats.