(MENAFN - Jordan Times) A majority of journalists believes that public figures and institutions use various means of "soft containment" to bring the media under their control, according to a study prepared by Al Quds Centre for Political Studies.
The study surveyed a sample of 504 journalists, 15 per cent of whom were identified as opinion leaders, and aimed at shedding light on the extralegal means that governmental and non-governmental parties use to exert influence on media practitioners as well as the effect of this behaviour on freedom of the press, particularly with regards to coverage of corruption cases and popular demonstrations calling for political reform.
The study said that more than 82 per cent of respondent journalists and 84 per cent of the smaller sample of opinion leaders believed that consecutive governments employ methods of soft containment.
"The difference in the two ratios in favour of the opinion leaders is attributed to the fact that the authorities mainly seek the opinion leaders' support to prevent them from criticising government policies in their columns and op-eds due to their influence on public opinion," said the study, which is being issued for the third year since 2009.
The study underlined that 70 per cent of kickbacks offered to journalists were in the form of cash and in-kind gifts, adding that the government was mainly targeting male journalists rather than women.
However, the surveyed sample said the government was not the only party attempting to buy off journalists. Businessmen, civil society institutions, influential public figures, political parties, tribal leaders, MPs and foreign diplomatic missions were also identified as being involved in this practice, with 69 per cent of the sample saying the business sector was very active in this regard.
As for the news websites, 57 per cent of the surveyed opinion leaders and 61 per cent of journalists said this form of media had also been the target of bribery and influence peddling, according to the study.
As to the reasons behind soft containment, 62 per cent of those surveyed supported the theory that governments' attempts to contain the media were aimed at limiting coverage of reform protests, while 69 per cent said these efforts were succeeding.
The centre's past surveys found 70 per cent of journalists saying the government used soft containment in 2009, and 86 per cent in 2010.
The report said the increase reflected a rising interest on the part of political leaders in pressuring the media to sell their policies to the public as well as increases in the level of press freedom, driven by the regional and local political developments.
Established in 2000, the Amman-based Al Quds Centre aims to provide a "comprehensive and more accurate understanding" of the developments and challenges facing the state and society, according to its website.