Jordan’s Environment Minister Resigns Over Media Controversy

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No apologies: Calling the Jordanian media “donkeys” and criticizing them for lack of fact-checking, Jordan’s enviro minister resigns.

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

:: For more on Jordan see:

Jordan Tries To “Ketchup” After Heat And Pests Wilt Tomatoes

Dead Poisoned Fish Found in Red Sea

Jordan Politics Hampers “Friends Of The Earth Middle East” Climate Change Event

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8 thoughts on “Jordan’s Environment Minister Resigns Over Media Controversy”

  1. اول شي السلام عليكم ورحمت الله وبركاتوه : احنا بنعاني من مشكله بشونه الجتوبيه قرب الموسسه العسكريه من شركه صن فرووت العالميه احنا بمنطقه سكنية وشركة بتكب مخلفاتها بلقرب من بيوت السكان (اسيد) وانواع من المواد الكيماويه (واصلا الشركه )انها منطقه (حره)مش عده مصانع والله وكيلكو ولادنا ماتو وتخنقو من راحت المواد (الكيماويه) والله يعطيكو العافيه ….

  2. Arwa says:

    I read those comment too but then I just kept thinking about this comment which was also posted:

    I live in Zai (very close to Zai National Park) and had the opportunity to work with HE Hazem Malhas on the cleaning of Zai Park. I am not employed by the Ministry, nor did I ever hold any public office. I care a great deal about the environment. When Hazem Malhas visited Zai Park in May this year, he was devasted to see the amount of garbage piled every where. Hazem Malhas instructed that the Park should be cleaned and requested that ALL parks of Jordan be cleaned too. This was announced in the press 2 weeks ago, and became one of his ministerial projects.
    Can you believe that Hazem Malhas called me (a private sector citizen) at 6:30 am just to ask me “is the park clean now”? or “has my ministry done the job”?
    I rarely meet concerned and devoted Public Servants, dedicated people that connect the day with the night to do a well job. Hazem Malhas was one devoted Jordanian that wanted to impress us and the world. He should NOT have resigned and I second Monty’s that his metal is clean and that Hazem Malhas would always positively support anyone who does good for our country.

    1. Wow. Sounds like Hazem might just have a fiery temper, like many Middle East men – some I know personally (my husband!).

  3. Arwa says:

    I know what you mean Karin- I like the fact that he was passionate about his work enough to get that angry… a little manners won’t have hurt though.

    Why he quit is the mystery of it all Taf, although some eople are saying that was a bit of a scapegoat as gov. wants to keep relations with media smooth during the elections… I don’t know though.

    1. I looked on the other blog you reported from. The rumor is that he was nasty before and was nasty to people who worked for him. So maybe his passion about the environment, is just passion. Period.

  4. I want to know why he quit?

  5. You need to be more eloquent, perhaps, but at least make sure you have a little more seniority.

  6. I like this guy. The UN should hire him.

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