At the News Xchange
18 November 2004
I understand that my time with you this morning is listed on your agenda as a keynote address. But I've learned enough from my friends in the broadcasting world to know that you don't want to sit for twenty minutes looking at a talking head. So, if I may, I'd like to make just a few remarks, and then I hope we can have some interaction back and forth.
First, let me say that every one of you is part of an extraordinary enterprise, an international dialogue of tremendous scope and power. Through your work, the people of the world have had unprecedented access to information and ideas. And your viewers want to share in that larger world. To benefit from modern knowledge and opportunity. And more, to share in the benefits of justice and peace.
So how does our world expand its promise, to those who are left out? I've suggested before that we face a great choice in this century. In one direction is a world of freedom and openness - a human community based on respect for others and growing opportunity. The other direction is the way of the extremists, toward a world of violence and division.
I believe in progressive change. And I believe that for this to happen, we need thoughtful journalists and credible sources of news more than ever. Today, the camera lens is the eye, not of the cameraman, but of millions of viewers watching over his or her shoulder. And we count on the global media to keep the focus clear. The challenge is, to see beyond the surface. To avoid distortion. And to translate, not only between languages, but between cultures and communities – especially today, Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.
Only a few years ago, such dialogue was rarely discussed. Today building bridges is a major issue. We human beings have an urgent need to understand each other better, to speak to each other more responsibly, to avoid easy categories and avoid inflammatory rhetoric.
In the past few years, I've talked often about Islam as a religion of peace, rooted in core values of tolerance and respect for others. Islam's historic dynamism made my region a pioneer in civic development and scholarship – and by the way, paved the way for Western development as well. I've tried to express what the vast majority of today's Muslims expect themselves to be: full partners in our 21st century, on the basis of peace and shared respect.
Speaking out on these issues is my responsibility, not only personally, but as a citizen of the Arab Islamic world. And there are millions more who share my belief in the values and the future of our region. Jordan has led the way, with structural reforms. We are energising our economy. We are working for stable, democratic political life.
And we have put significant emphasis on human rights. A new human rights centre has been established to act as an ombudsman. In the area of the media, we are enacting laws to restructure state media organisations, and disengage the government from direct control. Laws have been drafted to liberalise the sector and to open the public airwaves to private TV and radio stations. And we abolished the Ministry of Information.
We know there is work ahead. Lasting change is deep change, and deep change does not come overnight. But Jordan has made its choice, for progressive reform, optimism, and peace. And many throughout the region agree.
Let me say, I am delighted that News Xchange 2004 is highlighting the role of the Arab broadcast media. The Arab media has an important role if regional reform and peace are to succeed. Dispassionate knowledgeable reporting, fairness, credibility – these are all essential to constructive public dialogue. Extremists don't seek dialogue; they seek platforms and exposure. Responsible journalists deny it to them, just as they deny the hatred and violence terrorists incite.
I cannot talk about our region without discussing the subject of peace. I know you're all closely following events in Iraq. It is urgent for the whole region, the whole world, that there be a rebuilt, violence-free, democratic and sovereign Iraq.
The Arab-Israeli peace process is also critical. This conflict is the central challenge of our day – not just in the region but around the world. It has brought untold suffering to the parties. It has held back regional development. And it is causing worldwide collateral damage – including extremist violence and a serious loss of faith in international justice.
In 2002, the Arab countries committed themselves to a balanced and lasting solution. It was a milestone proposal: real security for Israel to live in peace with its neighbours. A sovereign, viable, democratic and contiguous Palestinian state. And a process that leads to a comprehensive settlement, based on a two-state solution, addressing the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.
The parties agreed to the goals. The G-8 supported them. Now it's time for some hard, focused work to make it happen. At Yasser Arafat's funeral, world leaders came together with a new sense of urgency about fulfilling the dream of an independent Palestine and peace. I have urged the international community, especially the United States, to take the lead in moving the parties forward.
Now, I urge you, as news professionals, to help the world's leaders keep their eyes on the prize. Ordinary people on both sides, Israelis and Palestinians alike, are crying out for peace. Listen to them. Listen to their hopes. Help them speak louder than tanks and bombs.
Let me close by joining you in paying tribute to a special group of your peers – the reporters and cameramen and translators and others who have been killed doing their job. Many broadcast professionals have gone into danger to get the news in conflict zones and areas of crisis. Some have taken these risks to cross divides, to make sure they are hearing the whole story.
I know this conference is going to be looking closely at safety issues, and the welfare of journalists and their families. To me, the greatest honour I can pay them, and all of you, is to continue the work for peace. I believe we will succeed.
Thank you very much.