Wikileaks And The Silence Of Jordanian Media


Newspaper Reader in Amman
Photo By: Laith Majali

Words by Naseem Tarawnah

It is arguably the biggest global story of the month, and quite possibly the year. Yet the biggest leak of confidential government cables in history has not been enough to elicit a proportionate reaction from the Jordanian media, even when Jordan plays an actual role in this bit of news. With the US embassy in Amman apparently being one of the top sources in the world when it comes to the leaks, and cables regarding Jordanian officials positions on Iran and the Middle East peace process being largely quoted in the international media, one is forced to wonder why the local media has initiated a self-imposed embargo on the story.

As the second day of the post-”cablegate” news cycle unfolds, local media in Jordan seems to have only stuck out its head enough to disseminate the government’s position in a slew of standardized articles in the major newspapers all reiterating the same denials and reaffirming the same positions.

This Jordan Times article basically sums up the official line on the issue:

“Jordan’s policy on regional issues, which the documents referred to, is clear and has been reiterated publicly by His Majesty King Abdullah in his meetings with US and international officials. This declared policy has been restated by several government officials who alone represent the official positions of Jordan,” the statement quoted a government official as saying.

… “Jordan has always stressed the importance of having relations among nations based on mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of the other, which will ensure good neighbourly relations prevail in accordance with these principles,” the official said. With regards to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the official said Jordan’s position has and will always remain that the conflict should be resolved on the basis of a two-state solution that ensures the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state as part of a comprehensive regional peace.

“These stances and positions are reiterated and made clear in all meetings between Jordanian officials and Americans or any other international officials. Everything indicated or interpreted by the American officials and mentioned in the documents reflect their personal readings and analysis,” the statement concluded. [source]

I’m actually quite surprised that the government even thought to issue a response. Typically this kind of thing is a moment for the government to go completely silence until things build up online and internationally to the point that it blows up in its face (the CIA-Afghan fiasco of January 2010 comes to mind). Ironically, this may have more to do with the US embassy than the Jordanian government itself, especially since the US state department seems to have spent the better part of this past week contacting foreign governments to “brief” them of the upcoming leak in preparation for some damage control. I expect Jordan was likely on that list. The US embassy in Amman was quick to send out a mass email with a a prepared statement by the White House press secretary in English and Arabic before the working day here in Amman ended.

What is interesting is that the Jordanian response seems to have provided local media with the “opportunity” to actually tackle the story, even in the online world where the headlines of the sole wikileaks article typically reads “Jordan denies…” quoting the unnamed government official. Only Ammon seems to have tackled the subject head on, going so far as to translate the quoted Jordanian officials mentioned in the cables, including Zaid Rifai. Yet, for the most part, this opportunity seems to be lost on most.

Jordan’s traditional media appears somewhat aloof, and missing, perhaps intentionally, the biggest news cycle of the year. The Jordan Times editorial today, for example, focuses on the lack of rain lately. Ad Dastour’s headline read “Jordan confirms its stance against any military action on Iran” in which it provides the same state-produced information. Al Rai has a similar headline reading “Jordanian Official: Wikileaks documents reflect perceptions of US officials” reproducing a near photo copy of the Ad Dastour article.

The usual slew of columnists have made better attempts.

Fahed Khitan states in Arab Al Yawm that some of the statements made by Jordanian officials to US diplomats are indicative of a desire by some to exaggerate threats and perceptions that back up US foreign policy stances, in an effort to curry favor with the Jordanian state, solidifying or advancing their own job positions. Khitan also suggests that as more wikileaks emerge, it is likely to cause more embarrassment for the US Ambassador in Amman particularly, who he believes will end up issuing an apology of some sort (this is naturally wishful thinking).

Yasser Abu Hilala writes an informative piece in Al Ghad but while he provides extensive context and background that shows he knows his journalism history, he fails to tackle the Jordanian-related cables or even those related to the Arab world, except as a passing afterthought in the last paragraph. The same can be said of another column in Al Ghad by Issa Al Shaebi, who seems to focus more on the boundless nature of wikileaks in the information age.

Suffice to say, the wikileaks story seems far from over, and no matter where one’s personal opinion falls on cablegate, one thing is certain: local media seems to be avoiding the story. One can easily conclude that Jordan’s media is either taking its cues of silence from the state or is simply aloof to what is unfolding on the front pages of newspapers all over the globe. If wikileaks is proving anything, it’s that the world is becoming more transparent and open whether we like it, enjoy it, or feel comfortable with it. With that in mind, this should be seen as an opportunity by Jordanian media to question officials on statements highlighted in the US cables and provide some measure of accountability for what is said, even if it is behind closed doors.




  • Tololy

    Naseem, it seems to me that Jordanian media aren’t “silent” about wikileaks, but are rather treating the content in a specific way. I’m only relying on your review of media coverage of the story and you do list seven sources (a number likely to increase if previous coverage is anything to judge by) which do address the issue but perhaps not in the depth/relevance that you and I would desire or expect.

    • Anonymous

      i agree to some extent with that, however, i think when major news outlets treat in this specific way, i.e. as a story designed to be buried, then we are lead to believe that there is relative media silence on this issue. when no one speaks unless they’re told to speak, and even when they do, what they say is more or less a government press release, then this to me is more reflective of a media silence. in fact, new genuine voices are being reflected in any of the outlets.

      that said, perhaps things will change in the days to come, however, this will only go to show how either out of touch or controlled media is in the country – if it is unable to address a global issue when it is absolutely pertinent and only when it is absolutely unavoidable.

  • Rima Saifi

    I was just reading the following article http://www.alghad.com/?news=544804. so I think that it won’t be talking about Jordanian Related Cables maybe . I think Bloggers can shed a light on it more:)

    • Anonymous

      yes, unfortunately the safest way to tackle cablegate is to discuss the gossipy side of it. alghad, in this instance, is perhaps no different than other media outlets around the world. however, other outlets did provide a more balanced and extensive coverage.

      as for bloggers, i can only wish your optimism comes true. i think jordanian bloggers do not always react to fill the void of local media silence when its needed. they take their cues largely based on the issue being covered to begin with, and then providing an alternative voice/opinion, as opposed to filling the absolute void.

  • Pingback: The Silence in the Middle East | Dilaceratus

  • Anonymous

    There is Buddhist temple in Jordan!!What are you talking about!!Islam is under attack..
    Oh, and the bikini babes photo shoot in the dead sea!! Get your priorities straight bro..

    • Anonymous

      what was i thinking! *smacks forehead*

  • A7lam

    I think it is a case of lack of professionalism and knowledge. I seriously doubt that any journalist has gone through the effort of researching. They mostly rely on international news agency stories for information.

    • Anonymous

      i would agree that professionalism plays a part, but this is not an obscure story. not only is the information out there, but it’s everywhere. and this isn’t just about the journalist, but the editorial staff as well who are obviously not showing much keenness.

    • Anonymous

      i would agree that professionalism plays a part, but this is not an obscure story. not only is the information out there, but it’s everywhere. and this isn’t just about the journalist, but the editorial staff as well who are obviously not showing much keenness.

  • tony

    I disagree as you said Fahed Khitan, Fayez Fayez from ammon and kol al ordon have an interesting article about it. There is no in depth analysis but that might because there is not much that is surprising in the leaks.

    http://www.allofjo.net/new/allofjo/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6455:——q-q—–&catid=51:2010-06-06-04-19-21&Itemid=263

    • Anonymous

      i think, whatever one’s opinion is on the leaks, that “not surprising” wouldn’t be an accurate conclusion to make! it’s not about surprise – this isn’t an m. night shyamalan movie. it’s about documented revelation.

      and as for interest – there have been more stories and columns about the lack of rain lately.

    • Anonymous

      i think, whatever one’s opinion is on the leaks, that “not surprising” wouldn’t be an accurate conclusion to make! it’s not about surprise – this isn’t an m. night shyamalan movie. it’s about documented revelation.

      and as for interest – there have been more stories and columns about the lack of rain lately.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    I’m surprised that nobody was able to discern the clear reason of why they didn’t tackle the leak at any depth. The real reason is that they don’t want to spread false gossip because in reality the leak is a Zionist conspiracy to shame the Arabs and were facilitated by the US as well

    • Anonymous

      we should call that the ahmadinejad argument.

  • Maha

    The biggest problem with reporting on the cables is that reading them is mandatory. there is no headline to translate and copy, reporters and bloggers have to read and research to be able to analyze them…too much work.

  • Maha

    The biggest problem with reporting on the cables is that reading them is mandatory. there is no headline to translate and copy, reporters and bloggers have to read and research to be able to analyze them…too much work.

    • Anonymous

      …and i think that says it all…

      • Maha

        It’s true…and the Jordanian media is not the only one guilty of it. I read a news article from Reuters that cited the UK guardian citing a cable and then cited a German news weekly citing another cable. Why not cite the main source the wiki leaks cables? because that reporter most likely didn’t read them. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AR3RD20101128

        when most news articles are citing other news articles everyone is picking up the same bits from those cables and duplicating the interpretation of the handful of people who actually read them and cited them directly. Jordanian media will report on the details of the cables when someone from BBC reports on a cable concerning Jordan.

  • Amira J

    It’s not even just the Jordanian press. Even in the international news, the stories that are getting the most attention are the ones about diplomats who insulted each other. For example, I ran across three headlines online about how someone called Kim Jong a “fat chap” before I saw anything about Saudi Arabia wanting to US to attack Iran. It’s ridiculous. I also think part of the problem is that it’s too much information at once; people aren’t used to having to process so much so quickly, so they just switch off. It’s pretty sad.

  • Amer

    Q: What’s so new and surprising about the Wikileaks two Jordanian cables?
    A: Nothing.

    Is anybody surprised that we report to the US? really? or that we hate Iran and Syria? (we here referring to the government(s))

    Q: What is so new and surprising about the Jordanian “media” silence?
    A: Nothing.

    Is anyone surprised that our “independent” media does not dare say a word about anything important to the people?

    Q: What is new and surprising about Wikileaks cables, referring to other countries?
    A: A lot! We now have an insight into something we didn’t know before. For, example, what’s underneath the Turkish-American relations, etc.

    These cables are merely an affirmation of the conspiracy theory, in that anyone who dares to have Islamic thought is under attack. Nothing surprising here either!

    • Anonymous

      i think everything you mentioned above is reason enough to move the jordanian media in to doing some actual reporting. is there lack of it surprising, no? but it is required and necessary.