Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jordan: Targeting Journalists

By Hassan A. Barari
Last Friday, police forces attacked journalists who were covering the July 15th sit-in. From the get go, the police sought to weaken the momentum of the sit-in by resorting to violence and bullying; 15 journalists were beaten.
Jordanian journalists were shocked by this unprecedented level of violence. Just a few days before the sit-in, senior police officers took it upon themselves to guarantee the safety of journalists after a series of police and thugs’ aggression of journalists. The director of the public security promised that not a single journalist would be hurt.
Orange vests with the word “press” written on them were distributed to journalists, ostensible to ensure police protection, but journalists actually became sitting ducks for the police, making one wonder whether the police had the intention of beating journalist right from the start.
The unprovoked police targeted journalists in order to put a high price tag on media coverage of the demonstrations.
In the past years, when Jordanians took to the street protesting Israel’s policies, rarely did the police attack journalists. Over the last months, attacking journalists covering pro-reform demonstrations has become a pattern.
Sadly, there are some in the government who still believe that it is still possible to stifle truth. It seems to me that those influential decision makers neither read nor understand that we live in a totally different era.
Gone are the days when officials had monopoly over truth. Now, with the advancement of technology, new concepts came to the fore, chief among them is “citizen journalism”. We do not have to wait for the highly censored press to report biased stories, it is enough for one person to use his/her iPhone to take footage and upload on YouTube.
Given what happened Friday, I think there is need to train the police on how to deal with journalists. The Friday incident is likely to happen again if no proper training is provided to the police.
Undoubtedly, the strict security approach has outlived its usefulness. Simply put, it won’t make any difference in the near future.
The only way to get out of this current political and security crisis is by embarking upon genuine reform. The security-minded senior officials do not serve Jordan well because they do not understand that the world has undergone changes.
This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 19/07/2011

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