(MENAFN- Jordan Times) AMMAN — A professional, independent press has played a significant role in educating citizens and addressing shortcomings in previous municipal and parliamentary elections, a matter that has helped to improve the electoral processes, officials said on Monday.
At the launch event of the Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists' (CDFJ) guide for media coverage of the upcoming local and municipal elections, participants agreed that journalists contribute to improving the quality of elections by exposing violations on election day, as well as raising questions that lead to 'fruitful' discussion.
The Independent Election Commission's (IEC) President Khaled Kalaldeh said the press 'continuously monitors' the commission's work, while the role of observers is 'relatively limited' to voting day.
In addition, he said, journalists have had a significant role in educating the public about the latest Elections Law, which regulated the 2016 parliamentary elections.
Kalaldeh added that, in September's elections, there were only some 27,000 incorrectly filled ballot papers, while the figure was around 124,000 in the 2013 elections, attributing the drop to a wider awareness of the regulations.
While he acknowledged that journalists' comments and critiques have contributed to correcting a number of minor violations, he urged journalists to remain neutral and to verify information from the IEC before publication.
For his part, Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs Musa Maaytah noted that the Decentralisation Law is a 'relative novelty' for citizens, journalists and officials alike, making it normal for some mistakes to occur.
He added that the press contributes to the formation of better laws and regulations, by highlighting loopholes or weaknesses in regulations.
Meanwhile, the minister noted that following up on the work and efficiency of local councils after elections day is important in order to evaluate the outcomes of the law.
The local councils, which will be formed as a result of the new Decentralisation Law, will allow members of parliament to focus on their legislative role, saving them the time and pressure of addressing development and services needs, CDFJ President Nidal Mansour said.
It is also a step towards decentralising development efforts across the country, he said, calling for decentralising access to information for journalists working in the governorates.
The media guide was prepared by journalists Noor Eddine Khamayseh and Abdul Karim Wahsh and is available on the CDFJ's website.
The IEC will help in printing the guide, according to Mansour.
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