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Al Badeel, Amman Center for Human Rights release report on election media coverage

Al Badeel, Amman Center for Human Rights release report on election media coverage

News websites, community radios gave space to women and youths in elections

Al Badeel, Amman Center for Human Rights release report on election media coverage

AMMAN (8 February 2011) - News websites and local radio stations provided equal access to all political parties and candidates during the last parliamentary elections, according to a report issued by Al Badeel Center for Studies and the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies.

A project monitoring 10 news websites and five community radio stations found that opposition parties boycotting the elections often received more coverage than political parties which decided to take part in the elections. The large number of news items on electoral regulations and voting procedures – around one quarter of the total election-related news - indicated that the monitored media largely fulfilled their mandate to inform voters and raise voters’ awareness.

Implemented as part of USAID-funded Jordan Media Strengthening Program, the project analyzed 1,302 election-related news items published on the 10 news websites, and 2,536 election-related news items broadcast by the five stations between October 13 and November 7, 2010. Electoral advertisements – 846 from the websites and 116 from the radio stations – were also monitored.

“Media play a crucial role in elections, providing information that helps citizens make informed choices and giving space for candidates to present their views and platforms,” said Jamal Khateeb, director of Al Badeel Center. “Monitoring media coverage of elections is as important as monitoring the elections.”

The project sought to also establish whether election coverage was responsive to key civil society issues, Khateeb added.  “We found that not only did the monitored outlets show no negative stereotyping in their coverage of the participation of women and people with disabilities, but in some cases there were clear efforts to produce positive reports about these two groups.”

Jordan Media Strengthening Program’s Chief of Party Francesca Sawalha said coding sheets, categories and indicators were tailored to Jordan’s media and political context. “Specific tools were developed to answer specific questions: For example, whether the election ads focused more on tribal ties, religion, regional issues, or basic services.”

Four of the five community stations covered elections for the first time, Sawalha noted, and overall showed balanced content and diversity of topics and angles. Around 10% of the stations’ election programs focused on women’s participation and the women’s quota, while almost nine per cent was dedicated to young and first-time voters, the report said.

Senior journalist Yahia Shukkeir, who contributed as researcher to the project, called for a code of ethics to guide journalists covering the elections. “Before the 2007 elections, the Higher Media Council and the Jordan Press Association issued a code on elections reporting. In this election, there was no effort to introduce a similar document, and we did see some candidates start their campaigns before the official campaign period.”