It’s no secret that the media coverage on issues relating to climate change in the Middle East is far from perfect. A lot of journalist either don’t get climate change or – even worse- don’t care about it and this often reflected in the standard of journalism coming out of the region. But when the Environment Minister of Jordan Hazem Malhas made some rather harsh remarks about the state of journalism in Jordan last week, he faced fierce criticism which led to his resignation.
Last Sunday, during a UN workshop focusing on the media’s role in sustainable development, Hazem Malhas ridiculed the media in Jordan for the absence of accurate investigative reports on environmental issues. According to reports by the Jordanian blog, The Black Iris, Malhas highlighted the fact that few journalists checked their facts on environmental issues and that many failed to prepare for interviews.
Controversial Remarks Of Media ‘Incompetence’
Malhas went on to point out an article in a local newspaper which mentioned the presence of water wells in a town in Tafeelah which didn’t exist and also accused a candidate running for a parliamentary seat of contributing to the destruction of the river Zarqa basin- adding that media was simply not prepared to question the candidate.
However he didn’t stop there. As well as calling reporters incompetent, liars and ignorant, he told two presenters from state-run Jordan Television: “You are donkeys. Don’t you know how to prepare a programme?” Understandably, the Jordan Press Association issued a statement the next day demanding an apology from Malhas adding that they reserved the right to take legal and professional measure if the minister didn’t issue a formal apology and cease offending journalists.
Black Iris explained that “while Malhas used sweeping generalizations to categorize the state of Jordanian journalist, there is little of what he said that wasn’t in fact true and widely known.” Even so, there was a sense that Malhas’s good point about the media was entirely missed due to the derogatory nature in which it was worded. So instead of reports looking at the way that environmental issues are portrayed in the media or examining the role of the media in raising environmental awareness, all anyone could talk about was his controversial remarks. Definitely a case of ‘maybe he could have worded that better?’.
Controversy Overshadows Efforts to Improve Media
Instead of issuing an apology, the Minister chose to resign and apologised in his letter of resignation for making “unintentional offensive remarks” against the Jordanian media outlets. Malhas has only been an environment minister for a couple of months and Khalid Irani, the current minister of energy and mineral resources, was appointed as environment minister this Friday. So what’s lesson should we take from this whole fiasco?
Well, that seems quite hard to decipher as no-one is quite sure why Malhas resigned instead of just issuing an apology. But one thing for sure is that if you want to criticize people and get away with it, you need to be a lot more eloquent than Malhas was. Also, it isn’t very helpful to be that critical and not offer solutions. Instead of just ridiculing the journalists ‘incompetence’, he could have offered them resources to enhance their understanding of climate change and help improve reporting on environmental issues across the Middle East.
::Image via Jordantimes.com
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