A reflection by Mohammad Shamma
The recent popular protests in Jordan criticized not just a government that many feel are unaware of its citizen’s rights, but also critiqued the currents, parties, and the trade unions as a whole. The recent events occurred after the state’s decision to retract the latest 5% increase in fuel prices. As the demonstrations began, the outpouring of information was enormous. Many of the participants in the protests disseminated information and documented the details of the events through their phones and cameras.
It was remarkable how many people did not rely on traditional forms of media for information. Instead, they took matters into their own hands, documenting the moments of tension with the gendarmerie and security forces on one hand, and the loud chants that circled throughout the crowds, on the other. Protestors even conducted interviews and published them on their own social media pages.
Despite the multiplicity of the Jordanian media, ranging from five daily newspapers to an unlimited number of weekly newspapers, more than five television stations, dozens of radio stations, and over 200 news websites, many of the traditional outlets were not used by the protesters, who believed that the media was otiose and struggled to keep up with the field.
I spoke with a number of participants in the protests, and asked them: Why do you take pictures or document? Can’t you see how many journalists are among us? The answer was: “You see the event as you want and we see it as we want.”
I directed the same question at journalists covering the demonstrations: Do you notice the dozens of protesters carrying their phones for documentation and photography? Why do you think they do so? The answer was that they are documenting but not producing an integrated media content unspoiled by emotions.
There is a critical importance of traditional meeting covering the demonstrations, which is necessarily more comprehensive, but local and international attention often falls short. The virtual arena has imposed itself on the protest space in Jordan; a platform for young people to arrange, outreach, and organize. Most of them were youth in their twenties and thirties who bypassed all parties, unions, and media, and made their voices heard.
Many associate these recent events in Jordan with the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2011, which led to demonstrations and tensions in many countries, including Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Egypt. There is hope that what is happening in Jordan is a rights-oriented movement led by the citizens criticizing governments that were repeatedly called “corrupt” by the crowds. These citizens reject violations of their rights, while exercising their right to express themselves peacefully and without aggression against public property, as they recognize their duty to protect their country by practicing democracy.
Covering this transformation in Jordan is no easy job for the traditional media. Between people in the street are raising their demands and the decline of media institutions in the sector as outlets succumb to financial problems, reporting on what is happening is complex. In-depth coverage, giving space to individuals, holistic and detailed conveying of events without hesitation or bias, and creativity in processing is what distinguishes the real media. These qualities will earn the trust of the public, who realize the true meaning of the media and its importance in a time of transformation and change that is storming Jordan and the region.