(#Hatouf)…Example of Media Violation of Ethical, Professional Standards

AKEED -- Media outlets have monitored angry reactions by social media users to the manner in which two female presenters of a show on Amman TV treated a caller named Hatouf Hejazi. The caller topped the hashtags in circulation (#Hatouf) over the past two days in the wake of an electronic wave of sympathy with her.

A video clip of the morning show "Sah Seh" went viral on social media. The clip includes a phone call made to the show by a lady named Hatouf. The two presenters, Nadia Zoubi and Rahaf Sawalha, found the name of the caller to be odd and commented on it. They then uttered some words, which the public deemed offensive to the caller and to embody class discrimination.  

Local media handled the issue under different headlines, such as "Wave of Indignation Against Two Presenters of 'Sah Seh'…TV Apologizes - Video," "Story of Hatouf Opens Door on Low Level of Audiovisual Media," and "Hatouf and Two Lip-Job Presenters…It Is Debased Media."

Also, external media outlets reported on the debate under different headlines, such as "Jordan: Sharp Attack on Two Presenters Who Mocked Caller (Video)," "Anger at Two Presenters in Jordan Who Ridiculed Girl…They Apologized Later (Watch)," and "After Making Fun of Woman Caller…Public Forces Two Jordanian Presenters To Apologize."

The wave of indignation prompted the two presenters to make an apology through their morning show to the caller, Hatouf. They affirmed that what happened was an attempt at "joking." However, the apology did not reduce the amount of criticism, which reached the extent of asking the station to stop the show. Others asked (#Hatouf) to sue the station and the two presenters. Some lawyers volunteered to file a lawsuit on behalf of the caller.

Some of the comments under the hashtag (#Hatouf) on Twitter were as follows:

  • "Sometimes, light humor turns into ill humor.  This is what happened with the two presenters."
  • "Certainly, what Nadia and Rahaf did is barbaric and inhumane."
  • "While flipping through the channels, I immediately change the channel when I hear their voices."
  • "We demand firing the two presenters from all Jordanian stations."
  • "I don't want to defend Nadia and Rahaf, but that is how they are. They joke with everybody and they create an atmosphere with callers."

The family of (#Hatouf) issued a statement in light of the spread of the hashtag and the interaction by social media users, in which it asked the public to stop talking about what happened with their daughter during a quiz show on a Jordanian station, saying that they had forgiven the two presenters who ridiculed the name of their daughter, Hatouf. The family also asked all those who donated gifts to give them to the poor and needy. Several shops had expressed their wish to offer gifts to the lady in the wake of the public display of sympathy.

Mohammad Qtaishat, director of the Media Commission, told AKEED that "the complaints committee at the Commission, which is specialized in receiving complaints by the public against TV and radio stations, has not received any complaint regarding what is being circulated in the media and on social media on what happened between the two presenters and Hatouf." He noted that the Commission "is a law enforcement entity, and is not a center that responds to public or government demands."

Mohammad Tarawneh, former director of the Jordan Radio and Television Corporation, told AKEED that "the two presenters committed a clear professional violation. They exceeded proper bounds while presenting the show. This reflects disregard for the profession and the establishment they work for. A media person must have broad knowledge and must realize that a word could have many meanings when not used properly, even if this is done in jest." He added that "a lady like Hatouf did not call to win a can of tuna. She simply wanted to take part in the show. However, the way the conversation was managed dehumanized the caller and ridiculed her name, which is one of the old names, like those of our grandmothers and mothers. It is a genuine Arabic name."

Waleed Atiyat, a media trainer, told AKEED that "the words used by the two presenters violate human rights, which stress the need for respecting the dignity of human beings. This specifically applies to people who work in the journalism and media profession." He added that "the other violation is professional. A presenter of a show may not judge people or anything related to personal issues of the public. I think that what happened is a clear violation of the ethics of the profession. This is because the conversation included words and expressions that reflect class discrimination." He said that "there are limits to the element of appeal on shows. Even comedy shows in different media outlets are subject to strict professional standards."

The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) called the management of Amman TV several times, but it could not obtain a comment on the reactions generated by the video clip on social media sites. This raises a very important issue, which is that some media outlets do not understand the nature of work of media persons and journalists despite the fact that they work in the same field.