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Bushra Jalabneh in an interview with Bayan Al-Tal – Communication and Media Literacy Consultant 

Rights and Responsibilities Defining Journalism 

A camera and an open space around the clock for publishing and writing; What more do we need to become journalists? Did we ever imagine that our role, as individuals, would exceed exchanging news and stories to having the opportunity to become the source of the media story itself? Getting the information that we need is easier than ever now with dozens of resources to which we can refer. 

While the current media scene may seem ideal for conveying the truth and delivering it to the world in a timely manner, as a media graduate, I believe there are several challenges we still face, including: 

  • – The multiplicity of resources does not necessarily mean the accuracy of the information. 
  • – The “Share” button, which can communicate the story to millions of viewers, can be a means for exploitation and altering the perception towards various issues. 
  • – The ability to publish at all times allows for less censorship and more rumors. 

This raises the question, what can we do to sort this situation and use it in our interest, not the other way around? 

In a thorough interview with Bayan Al-Tal, we discussed several questions, posed by me and Generation 01 team, regarding the impact of media on societies, public awareness, and the need to stay conscious. Al-Tal shared some of her extensive expertise in the field of government communication, as she is a consultant for media and communication, Director of the Media and Information Literacy Project, and the founder of the Media and International Communication Department under the royal patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II. 

Can media play a role in changing societies? 

Al-Tal believes that the role of media is not limited to shaping societal opinions on an issue, but it can bring about change at the state level and its laws and decisions. “We have male and female journalists who have succeeded in utilizing media for bringing about major changes in the social, economic, and political fields. Nadine Al-Nimri, for instance, used media to advocate for the Child Rights Law, and also contributed to the support campaigns for mothers’ right to decide to admit their children to hospitals. Rana Al-Husseini dealt with the issue of so-called “honor killings” until she changed how the security services dealt with them. The media is capable of making changes, not only influencing the opinions of the masses,” said Al-Tal. 

What about impartiality? To what extent can I, as a journalist, support a specific cause? 

Al-Tal believes that it is more important for a journalist to be accurate in conveying information than to be impartial. Their content must include and present all aspects of the cause, however distant from their opinion. Does that mean impartiality is always a necessity? 

There is always room for empathy towards humanitarian causes, even if you are a journalist. Al-Tal explained with an example of such matter: “In Britain, when the issue of exiting the European Union was raised, the media’s bias in favor of the Brexit shed light on certain perspectives over others, which affected the public interest of the state. In journalism, we take the common good into consideration, sometimes you must find a middle ground. Therefore, as a journalist, you can be biased toward what is in the interest of the country and the citizens, but you need to have a profound sense of responsibility and awareness to achieve this feat.” 

This answer reflects the importance of raising awareness among us, the youth interested in the field of journalism and media. While we have to demonstrate all aspects that may be involved in a case, there are human issues that are unmistakable. We have the choice to empathize with it, and even try to win support for what is in the interest of those involved in it, and I do not think that this strips us of our media professionalism. 

Who is the gatekeeper in the age of social media? 

How many WhatsApp messages have you received from your parents with unfounded news? How many times have you read an eye-catching headline, and as soon as you opened the news, discover that it was a clickbait? 

In the age of social networking sites and its various channels that we all follow at different ages, the concept of media consumption has become fraught. With falsifying facts and misleading information, narrowing the image and viewpoints to limit the recipient to a specific category, and the spread of hate speech and bullying practices, we need to adhere to media ethics, not only as media professionals and specialists, but as observers and recipients of news as well. 

In this context, Al-Tal said: “Unfortunately, individuals no longer have confidence in traditional media due to the agendas pursued by such channels. people who do not have confidence in a government or parliament will find it difficult to trust state-owned media. Hence, the source of the information itself has become defective for the recipient.” 

And she continued: “As for social media, it offered a wonderful opportunity for us to shed light on what matters in our opinion, but it also caused chaos that we still have room to put in place with time. Today, we have to analyze media theories and be the gatekeepers of valid information, we should adhere, as media professionals, to the principles and ethics of the profession. Being able to have my own social media page does not mean posting whatever I want; If I violate the principles, I have offended my reputation as a journalist, the ethics of the profession, and the institution to which I belong. Censorship starts from within the journalist, then there must be institutions concerned with oversight in the local press entities, following up and dealing with any error that may be issued by modern or traditional media stations.” 

Al-Tal mentioned a local example of such institutions that was new to me, which is the Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) of the Jordan Media Institute, which has been operating since 2014, and aims to monitor media violations and offensive and hate speeches. 

Why do rumors spread faster than the truth? 

This is where the recipient’s role comes into play. Al-Tal advises everyone to consider “the nature of feelings” the news you receive triggers before you hit “share.” “Rumors are based on stimulating emotions. I have to ask myself; Does this news make me sad or angry, is it in line with or different from my convictions?” 

I’d like to complement her words with a piece of personal advice that may be useful in searching for the truth; Look for an error in the news you receive and listen to those who have different convictions as much as you listen to those who say what you want to hear. 

Commenting on this, Al-Tal said: “Social media is a tool set to explore other cultures and to bring us closer. However, the algorithms trap us in our own bubble, showing us only what we like and what we want to listen to and watch, and this is a dangerous matter as it may negatively affect societies and the concept of pluralism, respecting the opposite opinion, and acceptance of others. Thus, it is our responsibility to adopt the right approach in dealing with these smart media agendas.” 

Definition and implementation of media literacy 

Taking the leading steps in the Arab world, Jordan is developing a media literacy curriculum on a national level, in which male and female teachers are trained to be facilitators rather than indoctrinators. The curriculum also aims to enable the students’ analysis and research skills to distinguish falsified information and reach for the facts themselves. 

Al-Tal said: “We have started working on this project between 2016-2019, in cooperation with the National Center for Curriculum Development, and have gained the government’s trust and approval. We conducted tests on the curriculum in four schools for the seventh, eighth and ninth grades, with male and female students. The results were promising, as students succeeded in telling whether the information was correct or not. Today, we should work on all scales; from kindergarten to grade 12, as all youngsters and children, without exception, use smartphones and interact on social media. It is important to include media literacy in the curricula, and to train teachers and students in various skills so that we can gradually build media awareness from an early age.” 

In this day and age, we are all journalists… We can use our daily tools to express ourselves, tell our story, and search for answers to all our questions, but the first, and rather most important, step is to create sufficient awareness; Educating ourselves first, then educating those around us about how to receive, spread, or publish news. 

And I conclude my blog quoting Al-Tal: “We trust everything with you, our new generation. You can utilize media, especially digital media, for your interests and the country’s as well. Do not hesitate in doing your part.” 

Bushra Jalabneh in an interview with Bayan Al-Tal – Communication and Media Literacy Consultant 

This blog reflects the opinion of Bushra Jalabneh, after she interviewed Bayan Al-Tal, one of the most prominent specialists in the field of media and communication, as part of the “Generation 01” program implemented by Generations for Peace, with the support of the US Embassy in Jordan.