x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Jordanian sites translate WikiLeaks for 'press freedom'

Two local news websites are translating WikiLeaks into Arabic to provide Jordanians with information on leaked US government documents related to their country.

AMMAN // Two local news websites are translating WikiLeaks into Arabic to provide Jordanians with information on leaked US government documents related to their country.

The websites, Ammannet and 7iber, launched a joint initiative by posting the translated information online.

"The idea is to provide a free service to Jordanians in an attempt to contribute to raising the ceiling of press freedoms," Sawsan Zaidah, the projects manager at Ammannet, a local news website, said.

"The information in the cables is available online, but Jordanians can't read it because of the language barrier. So we monitor what is published on Arab countries and Jordan in the WikiLeaks and publish it … in a way we will be contributing to making access to information easier to Jordanians."

The project aimed to provide unbiased information, said Naseem Tarawnah, the founder of 7iber.com. "The idea is to empower people with information, but how they choose to use it is up to them," he said.

As of yesterday, the websites had translated 13 previously released diplomatic cables into Arabic, including three about Jordan.

Jordan considers itself the first country in the region to endorse an access to information law, which it did in 2008. But journalists face obstacles from other restrictions that regulate the press, including a law that enables officials to classify information as state secrets.

In a country where English is not widely spoken, language is considered one of the biggest barriers to information from outside sources.

"Those who are proficient in English can access the information straightaway in the country," said Nidal Mansour, the executive director of Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists, based in Amman.

Mr Mansour estimated that only five per cent of Jordanian journalists were fluent in English, which resulted in fewer stories translated into Arabic from the local English dailies.

"The material that is published in English is inaccessible to Jordanians at large," Mr Mansour said. "Now that the WikiLeaks are published in the mother tongue, this will surely improve the public's knowledge of what's going around them."

Fiesal Hamza, an employee at The Ocean, a fish shop, said he supported the idea of having the WikiLeaks translated into Arabic. "The public can find out what is going on behind their back, particularly because there is lack of transparency on the government's part."

smaayeh@thenational.ae