The Jordan Press Foundation (JPF) — Al Rai on Wednesday hosted the UNESCO celebration of the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) 2019, on May 3, with the participation of senior international and Jordanian officials.
The event was themed globally “Media for democracy: journalism and elections in times of disinformation”, according to the UNESCO.
State Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghunaimat attended the event alongside UNESCO Representative to Jordan Costanza Farina, who delivered the opening remarks, and Swedish Ambassador Erik Ullenhag, as keynote speaker, and EU representative Egidijus Navikas.
“Under our global theme, today’s workshop series has offered youth from across Jordan a chance to focus on freedom of expression in times of disinformation,” said Farina in his speech.
Al Rai organised a roundtable discussion on the role of the media in democracy, addressed by UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay and JPF Chairman Ayman Majali.
On the importance of journalism and press freedom to democracy, Farina added that “press freedom is the cornerstone of democratic societies. All States, all nations, are strengthened by information, debate and the exchange of opinions,” he said.
Expressing appreciation for Al Rai’s hosting of the WPFD celebration, Farina also noted that press freedom is more important today than ever.
“At a time of growing discourse of mistrust and delegitimisation of the press and journalism, it is essential that we guarantee freedom of opinion through the free exchange of ideas and information based on factual truths.”
Several training workshops were organised at the JPF headquarters ahead of the celebration.
“The sessions have attracted media and journalism students from across Jordan, and have focused on freedom of expression in times of disinformation,” he said.
Giving a keynote speech at the celebration, Ghunaimat said that the government is keen on empowering media outlets and addressing the spread of rumours on social media platforms.
She also explained that the establishment of online platforms investigate and filter information to raise awareness and the media literacy project are among the tools of the government to address the spread of rumours and fabricated news.
Following the speeches, a lively panel discussion took place, moderated by UNESCO Programme Officer Ikhlas Khawaldeh. The discussion emphasised the important role of media in countering disinformation, cyberbullying and online hate speech.
Ambassador Ullenhag participated in the discussion, which centred around the relationship between press and democracy. “One of the main pillars of Sweden’s policy towards the region is to support and advance human rights. A core priority of this is the development of independent quality media. We strongly believe that access to public information, investigative journalism and channels for freedom of expression and debate are essential to democratic development. We will continue our support for freedom of expression in Jordan and the Middle East. Jordan has, with its history, solid ground towards taking the necessary steps to fully respect the freedom of expression. The Middle East desperately needs that kind of leadership.”
Rawan Damen, filmmaker and media consultant, addressed the challenges of navigating digital disinformation, voicing concern about fake news on social media. “Information verification and fact-checking are key skills that each journalist and content producer requires; they are no longer complementary, but essential and indispensable.”
Omar Abdallat, a cartoonist who often focuses on the issue of press freedom, shared, “Cartoonists must be careful before drawing caricatures, taking into account the implications of their drawings, because when these are shared with the public, they may have a strong impact.”
Delivering a closing speech, Majali highlighted the role of professional press in defending the national causes and the country’s sustainable development and democratization process.
Majali voiced Al Rai’s openness to build partnerships with all local and international agencies, including the EU, UNESCO and Al Ahliyya Amman University to train professional journalists and equip them with the latest technologies that are revolutionising the media industry.
The chairman also explained that press freedoms are challenged not only with laws curbing journalists’ conduct but also with fabricated news circulated in social media outlets.