The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) is one of the projects of the Jordan Media Institute. It was founded in 2014 with support from the King Abdullah Fund for Development as part of the Democratic Empowerment Programme. It is a tool that holds Jordanian media outlets accountable, and examines the credibility of news material that is published and broadcast. It also publishes periodic reports on the news.
AKEED is the first Arabic monitor concerned with verifying the credibility of media content. It works institutionally, and is managed by an independent academic institution. AKEED’s team has undergone practical training for a whole year, and has developed a group of standards and work methodologies. It publishes daily reports through its website in addition to activities that serve its goals.
What is AKEED?
The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) is a tool that tracks the content of media outlets. It tracks the credibility of news material that is published and broadcast by Jordanian media outlets. It achieves this through the mechanism of verifying information based on scientific monitoring, ethical journalism standards, quality of information and best practices in this field. It also handles the tasks of evaluation, follow-up and documentation.
The stages of democratic transition often witness changing values that shake the social, traditional and cultural system in a lot of societies. Therefore, this stage is a fertile ground for the spread of misleading news, or news that lacks standards of credibility or objectivity such as accuracy, balance and integrity. This requires serious professional work in order to establish the required commitment to professional, journalism standards by alerting media outlets and the public to the sources of transgression in dealing with news and information in all its types. It also establishes a culture that does not accept misinformation or secrecy.
AKEED’s concept came as a response to the political, social and cultural changes that the Jordanian society is going through at this stage of democratic transition. AKEED assigns more responsibility to media outlets in addition to technological transitions that embraced the essence of the communicative process. This makes the role of developing accountability systems for media outlets important in rooting professional standards.
Our vision is to contribute to enriching public trust in the Jordanian society. This process is based on the principles and values of media credibility, and by establishing the practice of verification by media outlets while boosting the ability of society for critical follow-up of the performance of these media outlets.
What is Media Credibility?
It is the sum of journalism, professional and ethical standards and values. It means accuracy, avoiding mistakes, balance, neutrality, integrity, fairness and objectivity. It is also the solid base and the sum of professionalism presented to society.
What are the Goals of AKEED?
The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) aims to achieve the following goals:
1- to contribute, support and protect the right of society to know
2- to contribute in helping media outlets improve content quality and media performance
1- contribute in spreading the culture of media accountability among media outlets, journalists and society. This will make the public adopt daily practices in verifying the news that flows from media channels, and will help transform people from passive recipients to active ones, thus subjecting information to examination and editing.
2- contribute to upgrading the performance of Jordanian media outlets through developing the abilities of journalists in reaching information at its source
3- contribute in spreading the culture of quality information in journalism through continuous improvement of inputs, processes and outputs
4- identify the extent of the commitment of media outlets to applying self-regulatory tools, such as the Jordanian journalist’s honor code, professional rules and ethical principles
5- expose false and misleading news pieces that distort facts or depend on half-truths, or news that is marred by professional imbalances in accessing sources or dealing with them
6- disseminate alternative examples of high quality professional practices in dealing with sources and information in the case of topics that received distorted or imbalanced coverage
7- create an independent, national reference point to develop credibility standards and good quality journalism information through the documents and reports AKEED issues
8- introduce a new professional practice in monitoring and holding media outlets accountable through scientific bases and according to the best professional practices
What are the Values of AKEED?
AKEED stems from a group of constants that form the basis of the values it strives to establish by practicing verification of news credibility. The most important of these values include:
Independence: AKEED works independently as one of the projects of the Jordan Media Institute. The institute is a non-profit independent, academic establishment, and enjoys financial and managerial independence.
Good faith: In all its reports and issues, AKEED assumes good faith towards media outlets and society far from any considerations or other limitations.
Transparency: This means clarity in all professional practices and with everyone equally, far from secrecy and cover-ups.
Avoiding damage: AKEED works through the solid basis of preventing damage or alleviating its impact in the relationship between media outlets and the public. It also strives to limit the repetition of this damage for other times.
Public Interest: AKEED takes into account public interest and uses that as the lens through which it looks at the performance of media outlets. Public interest means the interests of current generations and future ones in society. This covers justice, social stability, development, human rights and dignity.
How Does the Matrix of Media Outlets Credibility Work?
At stages of social, economic and democratic transition, the power and effect of the media increases:
- during transition stages and crises, dependence on media outlets increases
- there is an increase in competition and struggle over who controls the media’s agenda.
- there is an increase in the need to develop media accountability systems to protect media outlets and society.
What Does AKEED Do?
Generate daily reports that include the results of the daily screening of targeted media outlets based on accredited criteria for media content credibility.
Daily interaction with media consumers through receiving the public’s requests to verify the credibility of the news. This includes verifying the truthfulness of the news, or reporting a violation or a professional and ethical transgression. AKEED’s team of monitors at will verify the credibility of the news, publish the violated standards.
Monthly reports on the status of the credibility of Jordanian media outlets: This is an analytical and documentary report, both qualitative and quantitative in nature. It is based on professional handling of issues and on a dependable scientific methodology achieved through focusing on evaluating media coverage in priority issues and in the most controversial topics of the month.
Qualitative or specialized reports: These are reports that cover specialized topics in the performance of Jordanian media outlets, and they aim to expose professional gaps in a specific field. They also suggest professional alternatives, such as the extent of media outlets commitment to news values, the credibility of the numbers and indicators used in news coverage and the credibility of health and medical news in Jordanian media outlets.
The right to respond and correct: the Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) guarantees the right to object to, respond to or correct its examination or verification of the news, its monthly or qualitative reports or any other publications and issues.
What are AKEED’s Frameworks of Reference?
First: the Jordanian legal system. Laws and regulations that deal with media, journalism and publication.
Second: the Jordanian media society’s self-regulatory system and the Jordanian journalist’s honor code as issued by the Jordan Press Association.
Third: human rights principles, most importantly, the “Human Rights Charter,” and, specifically, the content of Article 19 regarding the freedom of expression and the media, and the “International Convention for Economic and Social Rights”.
Fourth: cultural and academic ethics, accumulated expertise in the professional field and media ethics.
Fifth: international standards and expertise, most importantly the standards and expertise presented by the UN and its several organizations in the fields of communications and media including UNESCO.
Sixth: honor charters as well as international, regional, local and sectorial media codes.
Seventh: global media and journalism award standards, such as the Pulitzer Prize and the POLK Awards in addition to electronic journalism prizes that have appeared recently.
Eighth: AKEED standards.
How Do We Monitor?
The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) follows an integrated methodology in monitoring credibility levels based on a number of standards as follows:
What is the Content that We Monitor?
At the first stage of its work, the Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) monitors the following:
1- local Jordanian media content
2- international and regional media content that is relevant to Jordanian affairs and interests
How Do We Verify the Credibility of the News?
In addition to the previous frameworks of reference, the verification process depends primarily on a group of standards that AKEED developed in cooperation with a number of international and local experts in this field. These standards are divided into three groups:
Verification Criteria for the Credibility of Media Coverage and Content:
This includes seven primary standards, and each is measured through a number of indicators. The standards are: accuracy; balance, comprehensiveness and integration; neutrality; fairness and integrity; clarity and finally objectivity in assessment.
A Quick Checklist for the Credibility of News Content:
In order to apply the previous standards that examine the extent of news content credibility, AKEED’s team of monitors utilize a primary checklist as a first step to verify credibility.
Standards to Verify the Credibility and Professionalism of Media Outlets and Performance:
These standards are concerned with examining the credibility of media outlets by assessing their performance over a specific period of time. This renders AKEED’s performance more professional and comprehensive.
What Did AKEED Achieve in its First Year?
During its first year (September 2014- September 2015), AKEED issued 407 reports as follows:
|Issues the media did not follow up on||42|
Examples from Quantitative Studies Performed by AKEED
1- Syrian refugees in the daily news: from victims to burdens
This report monitored the media coverage of the Syrian refugee issue in Jordan. By using a representative sample of the first three years and a half of the crisis, it analyzed news coverage of four main daily Jordanian newspapers: Ad-Dustour, Alrai, Al-Sabeel and Alghad.
The analysis exposed a failure to adequately cover the social and psychological impact of displacement on the refugees themselves, and on the host communities. Existing coverage of these two aspects did not go beyond 2% (approximately) of total coverage. Instead, focus was on the material services provided to refugees in the areas of health, food, infrastructure and other aspects.
The analysis also uncovered a failure in sufficiently conveying the voices of refugees and their host communities. Their representation in news material did not exceed 9% and 5 % respectively. Coverage mostly focused on getting the voices of officials and relief agencies heard.
The analysis monitored a change in media discourse towards Syrian refugees. The percentage of news material describing refugees as a burden on resources increased from 24% in the first part of the monitoring period to 44% in the second.
2- Diversity levels in the Jordanian press: 63% of the material is “readily available” news!
This report dealt with the size of “readily available” news in the press; that is, news material which journalists do not have to make any effort in obtaining. Newspapers publish such materials as is, or with very little changes. The report monitored the percentage of readily available news in the total percentage of news coverage, including press releases and the Jordanian News Agency (Petra) news which the dailies publish. It tracked the coverage of four main Jordanian dailies (Ad-Dustour, Alrai, Al-Sabeel and Alghad) through a seven-month representative sample spanning over the years 2013 and 2014.
The report found that during that period, readily available news represented 62.5% of these dailies’ news content. This primarily included news from “Petra”, which represented 71% of the readily available news, while press releases issued by ministries, official government institutions, civil society institutions and private profit companies approximately represented 28%.
3- Coverage of constitutional amendments: government in attendance and deputies in absence!
The report monitored media coverage of the Lower House of Parliament’s discussions of two constitutional amendments. The first amendment expands the jurisdiction of the Independent Election Commission to include municipal and other elections in addition to parliamentary ones. The second amendment grants the king the jurisdiction to appoint the army’s chief of staff and the head of the intelligence department without the government’s nomination, which used to be the practice.
The report monitored the session’s coverage in five main daily papers: Ad-Dustour, Alrai, Al-Sabeel Al Arab Al Yawm and Alghad. The analysis found that the coverage was biased to the perspective of those in favor of the amendments, as they were assigned 59% of total coverage, while approximately 18% was assigned to those objecting to the amendments.
The analysis also found that coverage was biased to the official perspective, as 29% of the coverage was assigned to present the government’s justifications for the amendments, while it did not present a neutral explanation for them. In its presentations of the positions of parliamentary representatives as supporters of or objectors to the amendments, the coverage generally focused on categorizing these as for or against the decisions, but without explaining these positions.
4- Recycled and plagiarized news
This report monitored the spread of the phenomenon of re-publishing old news material as new by journalists, or plagiarizing news material published in other papers and media outlets. The report monitored sample material taken from four daily papers and found 31 items that have been recycled or plagiarized. The standard followed in judging whether or not a text was deemed plagiarized was when no less than 50% of the content was copied verbatim from a previous report or reports.
5- Remote area journalism: do newspapers violate the privacy and dignity of marginalized societies?
This report analyzes the coverage of humanitarian cases in four main papers according to a purposive sample. The report noted that in their attempt to raise aid, the papers published the most private and miserable details of marginalized societies and individuals portraying them at their weakest moment in order to illicit an emotional reaction from the public.
In 77% of the samples that were monitored, photos depicting the uncovered faces of marginalized individuals were published along with their names and addresses. No information was provided about social protection programs, the performance of institutions concerned with executing such programs or any factual information about the background and reasons of their poverty.
The Most Frequently Read Reports on AKEED Website in 2015
Top Tawjihi Student is Deprived of Studying Medicine: A Rumor Caused by An Inaccurate Report
This report was published on Tuesday January 6, 2015, and covered an untrue story. After its publication, it received a lot of attention from the general public. It is the story of Maryam AlBayati, a student who received the top score in the Tawjihi exam. A piece published in a daily newspaper reported that said student would not be able to study medicine, because she is an Iraqi citizen. The news was widely circulated, and many other articles were written about it. However, it was later revealed that the student had two chances to study medicine at any university with the exception of the University of Jordan.
According to AKEED’s performance standards, this news piece lacked the elements of accuracy and comprehensiveness. AKEED’s report was published on July 31, and registered the highest number of views with 114,000 hits.
Rumors about Weather Conditions Create Chaos in Society
AKEED published this report in the winter of 2014 after noticing the state of chaos in media material related to the weather. This is the kind of material that usually generates high levels of public interest.
AKEED noticed that some websites publish news related to expected weather conditions as issued by weather forecasters rather than meteorological stations, resulting in mistakes and inaccuracies. It also noted that the websites which published erroneous information did not offer any corrections or apologies, as they should have done.
To complete the report, AKEED called two sources about this news. It presented a list including “good practices in media coverage of weather conditions” according to globally followed standards.
Made up of 1300 words, this report received 70,000 hits on the site. A number of Facebook users shared the news with their friends.
News about Weather Temperatures is Exaggerated and Inaccurate
The report was published at the beginning of August 2015 during an exceptional heat wave that passed through Jordan and occupied center stage in Jordanian media.
AKEED noticed that a wave of media exaggeration in weather-related news hit readers. Social media sites reported ridiculously high temperatures and even published images of these “recorded” temperatures. The report showed that the news was false and inaccurate.
AKEED’s evaluation was based on experts’ information in temperature measurement technology. It proposed the conditions that have to be available in order for the process of measuring temperatures to be right. Personal use thermometers produce misleading information, and should not be presented to people as accurate news.
Crocodiles in the Jordan Valley: Absence of Media Follow-Up!
This was published on Wednesday December 31, 2014. The report was categorized under material that the media absented itself from. AKEED noticed that this important and crucial story did not receive the expected media follow-up.
Media outlets reported from Israeli newspapers the escape of 70 crocodiles from one of the parks, endangering people’s lives in the Jordan Valley. None of those media outlets followed up to investigate the story, or addressed the concerned parties.
AKEED considered this as an example of the media absenting itself from a news story that concerns public interest. It proposed a group of questions the media should have asked in this case, as required by professional codes.
The report received 60,000 hits.
Company Social Responsibility News in Daily Papers: Free Advertisement!
The report was published on Wednesday December 31, 2014.
A specialized report made up of 1600 words handled a well-known type of news material that discusses the activities of private sector companies. These activities are usually listed under the “social responsibility” category. This is usually promotional material for the company which writes the news and attaches photos to it.
The report presented a statistical screening of this material generated according to the constructed week method. It included a sample of seven days distributed over seven months starting in June 2014. It included Alrai, Alghad, Ad-Dustour, Al Arab Al Yawm and Al-Sabeel. The report registered 63 items of this type of news, with Alrai and Alghad featuring 43 of them.
Without explicitly pointing that out, the report considered such material as promotional, and, therefore, presents information and news that is totally devoid of journalistic investigation.
Media Coverage of Prisoners of War and Hostages
This report was published on Tuesday May 19, 2015. It is a specialized report written and published after Jordanian pilot Muath AlKasasbeh was captured by ISIS and before his martyrdom. AKEED noted that although media handling of hostage and prisoners’ affairs is rare, the topic receives wide and sensitive public follow-up.
The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) developed a group of guidelines for media outlets, journalists and social media activists clarifying best practices in the media’s handling of prisoner and hostage issues. AKEED sought input from independent media institutions and sources of expertise in the world while preparing the report.
A Phone in A Patient’s Abdomen: A Media Mistake Requiring An Apology
This report addressed a story in the media that proved to be a mistake. Roya news channel broadcast a televised report about an alleged medical mistake that was picked up and circulated by other media outlets and social media sites.
AKEED estimated that the channel rushed in to broadcast the news at the expense of accuracy and verification. What is worthy noticing though is that after realizing that this was a professional error on their part, the channel did not apologize. AKEED considers apologizing a necessary and respectable part of professional practice.
AKEED’s report detailed all the imbalanced elements of said news report, and presented examples of questions that should have been asked to avoid those elements. It ended with famous examples of the practice of apology for media errors.
Media Outlets Violate the Minister of Information and Communications Technology’ s Private Life
This report was published on March 5, 2015. It addressed a case that is considered to be a violation of the private life of the Minister of Information and Communications Technology by some media outlets that published pictures of the Minister’s private life before she took up office. The report made it clear that the published material does not contain any news value, nor can it be categorized under the public’s right to know.
In its evaluation of these violations, the report depended on ethical standards and expert opinions. It cited legal articles that prevent this kind of violation in journalism, in addition to reviewing professional standards developed by AKEED itself.