Child rights bill and information slot on rabbits...

Child rights bill and information slot on rabbits…

The pursuit of information to trace the legislative journey of a Child Rights Bill was no easy feat. Spending many hours, online and on the phone, only to reveal changes to the bill (during the various stages of the legislative process) is a reminder that both Parliament and the government face a serious communication issue that needs to be addressed.add an ad

Over the past few months, understanding the reasons why the bill has shifted from a large chunk of legislation to a second-tier law that excludes some of the best articles included in its first version has meant going down the information pit.

The first draft of the bill (for 2020) was drafted by a technical committee made up of 14 institutions, including the National Council for Family Affairs; ministries of education, health and justice; Directorate of general security ; UNICEF. Jordan River Foundation and the National Center for Human Rights.

But their version, which was well-written and largely served the interests of children, was not the one presented by the Cabinet to Parliament.

The first obstacle to collecting information came from the website of the Office of Legislation and Opinion, which published the 2020 version of the bill, but not the updated 2022 version that the government truncated and approved before it was referred to the House of Representatives. It took a long time to find the Cabinet’s version of the Child Rights Bill and multiple phone calls before a local reporter kindly sent it in.

Then came other failed attempts to find the final amendments recently passed by a joint parliamentary committee tasked with “reforming” the law, with a fierce disinformation campaign claiming that the bill contained subversive material that, incidentally, was not even a part of it (such as allowing children to change their religion).

It was not clear from the news reports about whether the joint committee, made up of 22 deputies from the “Legal” and “Women and Family Affairs” committees, had accepted the Fatwa Council’s recommendation to replace the term “parents” with “the legal guardian.” In Article 15 of the bill, women’s rights activists urged to describe the proposal as a paternalistic attempt to give women and mothers a back seat in the nuclear family hierarchy.

On Monday, Parliament passed the bill after striking out at least one article approved by the Parliamentary Joint Committee (and may have been drafted).

Seeing how recent news reports have left many questions unanswered in this regard, I made another phone call to ask a communications officer working for an organization that has access to the House of Representatives to share House amendments before they go to the Senate.

But at that exact moment, it became clear that Jordan had a huge communication problem that prevented Jordanians from accessing the walled labyrinths of public information. No wonder misinformation is rampant on social media. The facts were not readily available to counter the rumor mill.

For the country’s “program-based” political parties to succeed in the future, information is the bedrock on which everything else will be built, because socio-political positions and election campaigns cannot be created without a foundation of facts.

Ironically, recent government messages have been about increasing the participation of women and youth in political life. But to achieve this, these information barriers must be removed.

Looking back at two months of the information hunt, it is highly doubtful that European citizens had to jump through similar hoops to obtain basic data on the deliberations of their parliaments. Information sharing is a key piece of the political puzzle. How does he keep evading us here in Jordan?

Our Parliament has countless MoUs with counterpart parliaments around the world to share experiences and improve its professional conduct, yet its two main official websites do not have a primary information center detailing each bill’s journey as it travels through the corridors of the House and Senate.

Even the simplest information is presented in a complex manner. At the moment House of Representative is difficult to navigate and uses an outdated theme with outdated features. For example, users have to click 10 numbered links to get the full list of the 130 MPs, since it should be a single scrollable page with all the names.

That is why legislative reformers and political theorists must confront the fact that without accessible and well-regulated information, Jordan will go nowhere in its appeal for political reform.

Access to information is where it all begins. For the country’s “program-based” political parties to succeed in the future, information is the bedrock on which everything else will be built, because social and political situations and election campaigns cannot be created without a foundation of facts.

Jordan’s “political platforms” want newly formed political parties to rely on information. It is not enough to pass a progressive law that protects political parties from prosecution. The information, too, should be easy to obtain and basically easy to use.

Without the basic facts, developed by experienced communications professionals working in all three branches of government (legislative, executive and judicial), political parties will end up resorting to propaganda and conspiracy theories to gain popular support. An example of this is the political slander and populist misinformation that has targeted the Child Rights Bill in recent months.

For this reason, the entire Jordanian information sector needs an overhaul. Keeping citizens in the dark will only lead them to conspiracy theories and rumors to understand the world in which they live.

It will be difficult to achieve real reform, political or otherwise, if information remains opaque and difficult to obtain. Now is the time to introduce a new media infrastructure that enables future politicians and their constituents to form positions and opinions based on hard facts.

Ruba Sakr has written about the environment, worked in the public sector as a communications officer, served as managing editor for a business magazine, spokeswoman for an international humanitarian NGO, and head of a public relations agency.

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