More than 17 years after the signing of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, Jordanian journalists still find it difficult to contact Israeli sources to balance their stories.
Many of them still view Israel as an enemy occupying Arab lands and oppressing a brotherly Arab people, which, they say, should be enough to deprive it of the right to get an Arab platform.
When Israel is involved, patriotism should take precedence over all other considerations, Jordan Press Association (JPA) President Tareq Momani emphasised.
The 950-member JPA opposes contact between its members and Israelis, he noted, adding that the case is different with respect to the state-run media.
“We are totally against any contact with Israelis. The issue here is not just about journalism. Israel for us is still an enemy occupying Arab land and oppressing Arab people. We will not accept giving their views platform,” Momani told The Jordan Times yesterday.
Last Thursday, Al Ghad daily reported that a Jordanian woman was suing the Israeli embassy for holding her against her will for 24 hours. The article had only the statement by the woman, who was employed by the embassy, and that of her lawyers, but lacked any response from the Israeli side.
The reporter, Mwaffaq Kamal, told The Jordan Times that his decision not to get a comment from the Israelis was in line with his institution’s editorial policy, but is also within his personal convictions.
“I agree that professionalism requires balanced reporting, but for me this is a case that involves an enemy,” Kamal told The Jordan Times on Saturday, adding that he complied with the JPA regulations.
“Professionalism requires giving space to all parties to give their side of the story, and it is the readers’ decision to make up their minds,” Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism Executive Director Rana Sabbagh told The Jordan Times yesterday.
She underlined the sensitivity of issues related to Israel, but stressed that in news coverage, professionalism should be above all considerations.
“Jordan has signed a peace treaty with Israel. Therefore, there is so much integration and collaboration between the two sides. For example, when reporting about water issues, Israelis should be contacted for a comment,” she said, adding, however, that this is an individual decision and editors cannot force journalists to do something that contradicts their principles.
The JPA Law does not contain penalties against journalists who contact Israelis in the course of their reporting, but the head of the association’s disciplinary committee, Fayez Mubaydeen, told The Jordan Times that there can be a price to pay, which goes as far as revoking or suspending membership in the association.
“When such a case is reported to the association, the disciplinary committee looks into it and raises its recommendation to the JPA council to take action accordingly,” he said.
Interestingly, journalists working for state-run media outlets are excluded from this procedure, said Momani.
“Jordan has diplomatic ties with Israel and officials from both sides exchange visits and meetings. As public sector employees, journalists working in public media institutions have no option but to report such news,” he noted.
Tareq Hmeidi, an Al Rai reporter, told The Jordan Times that earlier this year, he was invited to a science conference in Qatar but decided to forego it when he heard that Israelis were also taking part in the event.
“Regardless of my personal views, I cannot go against public opinion. The conference was purely scientific and had nothing to do with politics, but I decided to boycott it, in compliance with the regulations of the JPA,” said Hmeidi, adding that he was criticised by the US-based Science magazine for not attending.