(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Reforming the Kingdom's press is best done by training and empowering journalists, not limiting their freedoms, members of the media said.
In interviews with The Jordan Times, they insisted that there was no need for additional legislation or regulations that might undermine press freedoms or the freedom of expression.
"The media is a very important player in shaping the public mind and in steering the community's perception," said Jordan Press Association (JPA) President Tareq Momani.
"Therefore, it is essential that what is being reported reflects the truth without bias or prejudice. The JPA is keen to fulfil its responsibilities in elevating professionalism, provided that all other parties show the same enthusiasm and willingness to cooperate," Momani told The Jordan Times on Sunday.
He was responding to Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh's comments during an interview on Jordan Television on Friday night.
"Some media outlets deviate from the right track and we continue to see some who intentionally publish material meant for character assassination or news reports without verifying their validity," Tarawneh said on the "Sixty Minutes" news programme. "This creates confusion and this is of course due to the leniency of the authorities in dealing with news providers."
"I think the Jordan Press Association can play an important role in this particular aspect with regard to... introducing proper legislation to curb this unacceptable behaviour," the premier added.
Al Rai Editor-in-Chief Samir Hiyari acknowledged that the problems Tarawneh mentioned are real, blaming "unprofessional media outlets" for presenting local and foreign audiences with reports that do not meet the criteria of professionalism.
"We should not bury our heads in the sand and say we don't have a problem, because we do, and this requires us all to work together to address this problem because it is affecting the entire media body," Hiyari said.
President of the Transparency Forum Bassem Sakkijha, however, warned that authorities should tread very carefully in dealing with the media in a society that is witnessing democratic transformations.
"Any attempt to restrain the media sector under any excuse will backfire," he told The Jordan Times over the phone.
"It is true that the media anywhere need overhauls from time to time to keep up with the changes in the world around them. However, authorities should work on empowering the media by activating media-related legislation such as the Access to Information Law, which enables journalists to obtain credible information from credible sources," said Sakkijha, who is also a columnist for Ad Dustour.
A lack of transparency and openness to the media compels journalists to seek anonymous sources, he noted.
Co-publisher of Khaberni.com Mohammad Hawamdeh said the "chaos" in the online media sector requires an initiative by all stakeholders - the government, JPA, Parliament and civil society institutions concerned with the media - in order to organise the sector.
"Sadly no one has the courage to take such initiative as they are fearful of the reaction of the online media," Hawamdeh said, adding that the "immature" electronic media sector in particular needs to be regulated in order to ensure its abidance by the ethics of the profession.
Meanwhile, Momani said he had represented the JPA alongside media leaders at several meetings with government officials, including the premier, to discuss the media strategy adopted by the former government of Marouf Bakhit.
"The JPA will support any constructive effort that leads to empowering the media sector, but we will strongly oppose any measure that could undermine press freedom," Momani said, stressing that the JPA is not aware of any government intention at the moment to amend the Press and Publications Law.