Media Offers Conflicting Accounts of Israeli Embassy Crime

AKEED, Aya Khawaldeh

There have been conflicting stories of the Israeli Embassy crime, which claimed the lives of two Jordanians, Mohammed Jawawdeh and Dr. Bashar Hamarneh, despite the release of a statement by the Public Security Directorate (PSD) explaining the circumstances of the crime that occurred on 23 July 2017. Local websites did not stick to the PSD story although they published the statement about the end of investigations and announcing the details of the crime when the statement was issued. They started looking for stories by persons, citing eyewitnesses, without verifying their credibility.

The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) has followed a number of reports and news items that circulated on the pages of news websites to look for information and details that conflict with the official story.

"Shirt Bearing Colors of Palestinian Flag Behind Killing of Jawawdeh" is the headline of a report published by an Arab newspaper, in which it offered information that contradicts the official story. It quoted the wife of the driver, the eyewitness who survived the crime and who was held by the authorities for a few days to conduct investigation. The authorities later released him.

The report, which was republished by many local news websites, said that the reason behind the killing of Jawawdeh was that he had worn a shirt that had the colors of the Palestinian flag. It added that the Israeli guard killed him in cold blood after the latter had suspicions about a nail box that Jawawdeh brought from his car to install furniture in the bedroom.

The content of this report contradicts the official story altogether. The official statement stated that there was a disagreement between Mohammed Jawawdeh and the diplomat, and that it developed into an argument due to delay in completing the work that was agreed on and not bringing the bedroom furniture on time. Afterward, Jawawdeh attacked the Israeli diplomat and injured him. The diplomat fired several bullets at him. He hit him and hit the landlord, who was standing next to him. Both died of their wounds.

Jawawdeh's father denied the truth of this information. In an interview with a number of websites, he said that his son wore "light brown trousers and a white T-shirt" and that "what the wife of the driver said is untrue." He said he had met the driver, Maher Junaidi, who confirmed to him that he was completely unaware of the details of the crime because he was hiding behind a piece of furniture when the shooting occurred.

One of the news websites published a headline that conflicts with the body of the report. The headline read as follows "Driver Settles Debate…He Met Father of Martyr Jawawdeh and Told Him What Happened Within Perimeter of Israeli Embassy." Meanwhile, the body of the report focused on the denial of Jawawdeh's father of everything that was mentioned by the driver's wife.

Another news website published a report under the headline "Sole Witness in Israeli Embassy Incident Drops Bombshell Behind His Death." Besides the fact that the headline is vague, the body of the report did not convey any story by the driver. The details were taken from other media outlets and sources, which the report referred to as "close associates." It said that the reason for the killing of Jawawdeh was that he wore the colors of the Palestinian flag.

Although the Press and Publications Law stipulates in Article 39 the rules of publishing in cases of preliminary investigation by banning the publishing of any information about them, many news websites are still looking for stories and details, quoting eyewitnesses or social media sites or stories that are relayed orally, and publishing them without confirming their accuracy and truth.

In a statement to AKEED, Lawyer Mahmoud Qtaishat said that publishing contradictory stories is considered distortion of official media sources. He warned against "fabricating rumors and incorrect information with the aim of sowing sedition."

Qtaishat adds that "the law prohibits all media outlets from publishing anything that could affect the progress of the investigation. They may not publish anything until after the investigation is completed and based on an order from the public prosecutor. Therefore, anyone who violates this law is supposed to be held criminally liable. This is done by filing a complaint by the public prosecutor against anyone who publishes incorrect and misleading information."

Qtaishat noted that official agencies were not doing enough to deny the information published in the media.

Salamah Diraawi, chief editor of Al-Maqar website, told AKEED that "the delay by the official side in revealing the truth, and as a result of public pressure by social media sites, the media has had a free rein and taken control of the scene."

The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) published an analytical report on the handling of the Jordanian official media of the incident and compared it with the way the Israeli media reported on the repercussions of the Israeli Embassy crime in Amman under the headline "Official Silence on Embassy Incident Leads Media to Error or to Israeli Story."

Diraawi added that "there are news websites that tried to seek the truth and look for information from original sources. Others that do not have a serious media team resorted to rumors and exaggeration. This is a sign of lack of follow-up and lack of professionalism. Besides, some electronic sites spread rumors deliberately and intentionally to charge the atmosphere, promote hate speech, and sow discord."

Article 39 of the Press and Publications Law stipulates that "a press publication may not publish minutes of investigation in any case before referring it to the competent court unless the public prosecution permits this." Also, a publication may publish the minutes of court sessions and cover them unless the court decides otherwise to protect the rights of the individual, family, public order, or public morals.