The Media Question: How can journalists and NGOs work together for justice in Jordan?

Alice Su

AMMAN, Jordan – ARDD-Legal Aid hosted a breakfast roundtable with journalists, filmmakers, NGO and UN agency representatives yesterday to discuss the role of media in justice and development in Jordan. How can NGOs and journalists better work together to hold decision-makers accountable and build a stronger Jordanian society? What role does media play in empowering and protecting vulnerable groups – especially refugees, migrants and women – and how can nonprofits support and collaborate with them?

“Media is the most important authority, even stronger than the legislative, executive and judicial branches,” said Dr. Abeer Dababneh, director of women’s studies at the University of Jordan. Media holds incomparable power to shape public opinion, advocate for justice and hold authorities accountable, attendees agreed.

ARDD-Legal Aid held this roundtable in belief that the best media experts are media figures themselves. Nonprofits like ARDD-Legal Aid have hands-on experience in protection and empowerment of marginalized groups.

For example, ARDD-LA recently completed a three-year project on Women’s Access to Justice (WAJ), providing legal empowerment  to vulnerable women in Zarqa. We have field experience, analyses of the successes and challenges, legal understanding, funding and a vision for continued WAJ and expanded justice work in Jordan.

But we don’t know how to break into mainstream media, bring attention to Jordan’s human rights issues, start a conversation and amplify it until it creates change. Thus we invited television, broadcast and print journalists, experts in film and web and social media, to join our discussion. “Media must be a partner in setting the strategy of human rights advocacy, not an afterthought in conveying the news,” said Lana Zananiri, ARDD-Legal Aid media unit manager.

The event used WAJ as a discussion starting point to inspire deeper dialogue on achieving ARDD-Legal Aid’s greater vision of making Jordan a “Land of Justice” by 2020. Participants came up with several key points:

  • Justice needs a clear definition. “If we want to speak about ‘Jordan, Land of Justice,’ we must clarify what that means and how to achieve it,” said Ehab al-Khatib of Ma3mal 612 and the annual Karama Human Rights Film Festival.
  • Media is critical to public perception of justice issues. Women, for example, are mostly still portrayed in a disempowered way. “Most media still only shows woman as a mother or a body,” said Dr. Maysoon Atoom of the University of Jordan. “This marginalizes her role in building society.”
  • Journalism can mobilize people by turning case studies into narrative. “We need to speak about justice through stories,” said Khetam Malkawi of the Jordan Times. “Give me a personal story and the issue becomes real.”
  • We need collaboration, not competition, across and within both media and nonprofit circles. Justice is more important than our personal careers, participants said, and nonprofits and journalists alike must support each other in our common fight for human rights.

ARDD-Legal Aid also presented plaques of recognition to Sawsan Darwaza and Ehab al-Khatib of Ma3mal 612 and the Karama Human Rights Film Festival, thanking them for their partnership in producing ARDD-Legal Aid’s “From White to White: Stories of Women’s Access to Justice” film.

“Media can restore humanity and dignity to those who society has forgotten,” said ARDD-Legal Aid director Samar Muhareb. Nonprofits and media must partner together, forming one voice for justice and human rights in Jordan.

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