Officials and the Media

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Tue 13 March / Mar 2018. 01:00 AM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

One of the most fatal mistakes officials make, particularly ministers and high ranking officers, is to dismiss the importance of media messages and communication with the people.

Officials have to explain government policies to the people, especially those relating to their own agendas. Opening up to the people and kick-starting dialogue, debate and feedback is crucial for governance.

The open door policy once met leaving one’s door physically open to the public. This why people often use the term “his door is always open” to commend one official or another.

Today, the term means a lot more.

It means communication with the public and openness to social media, fieldwork and engaging people, conveying real messages of transparency and responsibility.

Notably, the official dismissal of the importance of communication is slowly receding.

There is a growing realisation among state officials that communication is in fact crucial.

Proof of this is the Prime Minister’s meeting with the youth, alongside a number of ministers.

My colleagues, Jumana Ghunaimat and Fahed Khitan, already beat me to it; it is indeed a positive transformation, but it is still lacking.

It was a message to all officials, calling them to engage the people, yes, but what message did it convey to the people themselves, void of an programmatic agenda with real, measurable deliverables?

Nonetheless, the Strategic Studies Centre at the University of Jordan is preparing a report on the 2018 Jordan Agenda. It will be out soon enough.

Its recommendations include a call for engagement with the public and the formation of a strong media message and narrative to bridge the gap between governments and citizens.

So principally speaking, communication is beyond required. It is crucial.

Two examples of ministers who understand this particular statement well are the ministers of Education and Foreign Affairs. They are constantly engaging the public and explaining policies via social media and communicating with activists and interacting with feedback.

There are also other examples, including officials and politicians, as well as former ones, who are exceptionally open to the world. Maybe even too open. However, they do not engage the public to explain policies or bridge the gap, but for otherwise known reasons.

Some of the officials’ social media pages are more PR campaigns than actual public engagement. They are far more connected to media figures and journalists, exchanging favours, than to the people.

Officials blowing their horns, by proxy most of the times, have the concept of media messages all wrong. The point of it is to serve the interests of the state, not his individual agendas.

They are also wrong to assume the people are stupid enough to buy the rubbish they leak to the media.

On the other hand, there are other politicians and officials to resort to the media to extort other officials and deliver cheap blows to their rivals and even some current officials.

Overall, the relationship between the politician and official on one side, and the media on the other, is important to facilitate open channels of communication and feedback.

It is equally crucial for the reconstruction of the state-citizen relationship and rebuilding trust between the government and the people.

Politicians should not exploit their public weight to advance their personal agendas with the media, deliver blows to rivals or carry out smearing campaigns.

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.