Akeed – Aya Al-Khawaldeh
A video that initially spread on social media has documented the terror experienced by residents of Jabal Al-Taj in the capital because of “drug dealers and users.” The video ends with the death of a resident following a dispute with the group.
Footage shows dealers breaking CCTV cameras and damaging private property. The video then captures an attack on Fu’ad Rahhal that led to his death after clashes erupted with the group – he suffered cardiac arrest.
The video racked up over a million views and made headlines in the media and news websites. A police raid of the area followed and two “dangerous” drug dealers were arrested – one of whom appeared in the video. A sizeable quantity of synthetic drug “Joker” was seized.
A survey by the Jordan Media Credibility Monitor “Akeed” found that the video was posted on 16 media outlets, mostly under the headline “Dreadful Moments in Jabal Al-Taj Ends with Resident’s Death at the Hands of Drug Dealer.” A huge debate followed given the dangerous and hard living conditions of Al-Taj residents.
The anonymous video grabbed media attention: both the production and commentary were fairly good, though modest on the technical side. The video used some shots captured by CCTV cameras installed on some buildings in the area. This raised the question about “who created the video?” Akeed, has the answer.
More importantly, the 11-minute video has caused controversy over the noticeable decline in the role of traditional media in investigative reporting. The debate also revolved around the growing role of online media in making up for that, thanks to digital tools available to non-media specialists.
Who Created the Video?
It was not strange to learn that a relative of the deceased was behind the video: he decided to use his expertise in production to make the video using footage of security cameras in the area. The goal was to shed light on the cause of death of the victim.
Film Producer: It Took Ten Days with Hundreds of Hours of footage Reviewed
In a statement to Akeed, the producer explained that the goal behind making the video was to show it to Rahhal’s huge clan, scattered throughout the capital Amman.
“The first screening was organized one week following the incident at the clan’s headquarters, with the full names of those involved displayed. However, only the first names were kept after the initial screening,” he added.
“Acting upon the wish of families residing outside Jabal Al-Taj, the video was posted on a google website, making it publicly available to everyone,” noted the producer.
“The video spread across social media platforms starting with whatsapp and facebook, and was later picked up by news websites and mainstream media outlets. The video amassed 120,000 views in just two hours, with the total number of clicks hitting more than one million later,” he explained
“It took 10 days of and over 200 hours of work that involved reviewing hundreds of hours of recordings on five cameras installed above the victim’s house,” he told Akeed in an interview.
As for the linkage between the spread of the video and police raid, he explained that he started working on the production immediately after Rahhal’s death. Within the first week one of the perpetrators, Muhannad, was detained. The video was posted two weeks later and coincided with plans by the Anti-Narcotics Department to comb the area and arrest the drug dealers, added the producer.
Commentator: I Commented on the Video to Help Families Combat Drug Abuse and Trafficking
The commentator, who had worked with the producer before, said he got excited about the latter’s offer to comment on the video in order to help families in Jabal Al-Taj fight the “epidemic”.
“He sent me the script and I immediately accepted after the middle names and surnames of offenders were dropped,” he told Akeed in an interview.
Hussam Al-Najji: Poor Traditional Media Coverage of Important Issues
The spread of the video and the media uproar it caused raised questions about the competitiveness of alternative media and its dominance.
Social media expert Hussam Al-Najji explained that “alternative media is a two-edged sword: it is the voice of the voiceless, but it cannot be fully controlled which makes it harder to verify information posted.”
“Traditional media grew poorer in covering important issues, and the alternative media has taken over,” he argued, attributing the shift to two factors. The first is that newspapers have become more focused on generating profit, regardless of content, said Al-Najji.
He cited instances where many media outlets published false information and contributed to spreading rumors in order to win higher viewership.
The other thing, according to Al-Najji, is that following up on such sensitive issues can pose a threat to the lives of reporters, whereas the reporter can remain anonymous on digital media.
Salah Al-Sagheer: People Have Taken to Social Media to Vent out their Frustration over Services
Social media specialist, Salah Al-Sagheer, agrees with Al-Najji adding that people resort to electronic media to express their anger over services and use special features to promote their posts.
Rakan Sa’aydeh: Frustrated Newspapers are Contributing to the Decline of Traditional Media
President of the Jordan Press Association Rakan Al-Sa’aydeh blamed the situation on “the frustration that newspapers are experiencing”. He cited the financial troubles of newspapers, which negatively affect the livelihood of staff, as one of the reasons behind the decline. Another reason is the low and unstable margin of freedom these newspapers have. Finally, these traditional media outlets failed to have a strong online presence, said the official.
“Traditional media is weak not only in investigative reporting, but also in follow-ups and analysis. It is no longer effective,” he noted.
Weaknesses should be identified and addressed, stressed Sa’ayadeh, and called for building the digital capacity of media practitioners.