Vague ads coax women into prostitution2014/07/11
Amman (AmmanNet), “Female with good appearance wanted for job – no experience or qualifications necessary. For more information contact 07********”
As soon as she saw the advertisement in one of the weekly newspapers, Israa, 24, quickly called hoping to secure herself a job. She has been jobless since graduating from Jordan University in 2012. She got the address and was given a time for the interview by the person at the end of the line: “Amman, Gardens Street, building No. (), Office No. (), at 3:30, is this suitable for you? “Yes”, she answers.
Israa arrived on time at the specified location but did not pay attention to the fact that there was no company name on the door. She was met by a forty-something director, who looked her up and down with bulging eyes. He sat behind his desk and offered her a seat in front of him.
“You appear to be very suitable for the job, you are pleasant to look at and you have a very nice figure.” She attempted to interrupt him by asking about the type of work he was offering, but he continued to give her compliments about her physical appearance while fidgeting underneath his desk. He had undone his trousers!
Fear took over and Israa excused herself to leave worried that she might be raped! However he asked her to accompany him to make coffee so that he can tell her exactly what was expected of her in this job.
She lashed out angrily yelling expletives at him as she ran away. She was worried at what might happen and wanted to find out where she could seek help, without this turning into a huge scandal, in such a conservative society.
Israa is one of three girls with whom both reporters met, three months prior to publication. They all said they had been sexually accosted or propositioned for sex by three different job advertisers!
After investigation, both journalists discovered that half the obscure job advertisements found in weekly publications are in violation of the dignity of women and use incentives and financial benefits to lure girls into sexual relations and prostitution. We used a hidden camera on 11 occasions only to discover that in half of those times, girls were asked to work in the sex trade or were sexually molested.
These vague ads are going on without any clear jurisdiction from the Ministry of Labour and the Press and Publications Department as to who oversees licensing for such specialised tabloids. Lack of supervision and monitoring and the absence of regulations have permitted such advertisements to appear in the press. This is not only limited to special publications for advertisements but to daily newspapers who make huge profits from ads. These specialized ad tabloids do not keep a record of who the advertiser is.
In most cases the advertisements are quite similar, they do not set limits for years of experience, citizenship or qualifications. All they ask for are girls: elegant women, female secretaries or employees who should be good looking and between 20 and 35. They offer enticing salaries without revealing the name of the company or the advertising source, and give no location or email address; they only provide a mobile phone number. (As shown in the box)
The Department of Press and Publications is negligent with following-up on these ads. Since 2011, not a single penalty has been recorded against any publication printing an obscure advertisement. It also doesn’t accept complaints from citizens who have been misled by such adverts. The department has granted licenses to 196 newspapers including specialised publications that only carry ads. However, there are no accurate statistics for distribution figures for the advertising publications in Jordan. The combined total distribution number is 900,000 per week.
The combined distribution rate for two of the leading ad tabloids: “Al Waseet” and “Al Mumtaz” newspapers is 77.7% with 55.5% for Al Waseet and 22.2% for Al Mumtaz
According to a study carried out by Ipsos Stat at the end of 2012, Al Waseet ranks first amongst Jordanians as the most read advertising paper with 22.1% followed by Al Mumtaz in second place with a readership ratio of 11.8%.
Content Analysis of “Al Waseet” and “Al Mumtaz”
Both reporters researched for a whole month four weekly editions of both ad papers — August 31, 2013 to September 21, 2013. Al Waseet distributes almost 500,000 every week in the areas of Amman, Zarqa, Irbid and Aqaba, whereas Al Mumtaz gives out 200,000 all over the kingdom. The reporters looked at obscure ads which “did not specify any qualifications or conditions for the jobs that sought girls, women or female secretaries and employees. Emphasis is on physical appearance, asking for females that were elegant, pretty and without hijab specifying the age range between 20 and 35 and omitting any reference to company name or office.”
Al Waseet newspaper prints 14,500 ads per month and Al Mumtaz around 11,000.
2.4% of the advertisements are obscure
The total ratio of obscure ads in both papers was 2.4% of the total amount of the job adverts published. In Al Waseet it was 1.55% of the job adverts and 3.87% in Al Mumtaz.
Media specialist Sawsan Zaydeh and Dean of the School of Communications at the Middle East University Dr. Kamel Akho Irshedeh both agree with the definition of these reporters of “obscure” or “vague” advert. These ads were not respectable ones: they treat women as objects concentrating on the physical attributes without emphasizing education, qualifications and expertise. The ads were rather suspicious as they were ambiguous and did not provide any mention of the person/persons behind these ads.
Majed Alayyan, Director-General of Al Waseet, confirms that his paper carries 0.5% of “obscure ads” and blames them on “unintentional human error”. He stresses that 50% of the job advertisements in his paper come from well-known employment agencies.
On his part, Ahmad Ak Hadrab, director in charge of Al Mumtaz, denies printing any vague ads. “We print clear ads and are able to distinguish between a legitimate ad and one that isn’t.”
The female reporter on this team of two went undercover as someone looking for work during which she met 11 advertisers who had placed similarly vague ads; six were from Al Waseet and five from Al Mumtaz.
“Female employee wanted for part-time work with weekly or monthly salary. Citizenship and age not specified. Tel: ….” This is an ad that was printed in Al Waseet newspaper. The reporter called the number to ask about the position.
A natural treatment therapist; no experience necessary. What do you think?
No problem, where is the interview?
Jabal Hussein, location is above one of the well-known restaurants, at 7:00pm.
As soon as she reached the spot she called the number again to find out where the office was. She was asked to wait outside the building for few minutes. A silver coloured Hyundai pulled up and a well-built thirty-something man called Mohammed came down from the car, which was driven by his buddy Adi. In a calm manner he started telling her about the advertised job. “You would owe me two lessons per day to 16-17 year-old youths, teaching them massage and offering sexual favours not including intercourse. You will go to their homes in Rabiyeh and Abdoun, going in with your bag of creams and oils. The mother would be well aware that her son is up to no good, but she would be reassured because he was under her roof.”
While he went on explaining what was required. Adi offered the reporter a seat in the car saying: “let us be clear, we are working in prostitution and massage. I give lessons to divorcees.”
When she enquired about the amount she would be paid, he said JD 100 ($150) a lesson. “University graduates who worked with us became very rich and the youth give generous tips”.
Mohammad and Adi are among three out of 11 in this group who were filmed using hidden cameras and who asked for sexual favours for themselves. Three others attempted to solicit sex from the undercover reporter. She was asked to accompany “employers” to the kitchen to make coffee and interviews concentrated on whether she could accompany them on their business trips around and outside the country.
We attempted to reach Mohammad and Adi on more than one occasion to try and get their reaction after having recorded them in secret, however our attempts all failed.
We decided to continue with our investigation by visiting the offices of Al Waseet and Al Mumtaz newspapers, this time pretending to be advertisers and once again armed with our hidden camera. Our intention was to find out more about the advertising regulations at both papers.
In the reception area at AL Mumtaz, we were met by an Egyptian employee. When we told him of our intention to put out an ad he handed us a large ledger and asked us to write down what we wanted to have printed. We wrote down “Seeking pleasant looking female, attractive and elegant to work full-time or part-time at a leading company. Age not to exceed 35 years. Good Salary. Experience, Citizenship and Qualifications not required. Tel:..” He charged us JD 3 ($5) for the ad and did not ask about the company’s name or proof of identity. The advert was printed exactly as written.
We wrote down another ad but this time we added “does not wear hijab and with a nice figure.” The paper printed it after omitting the phrase “with a nice figure”. Both reporters remained anonymous.
We headed to Al Waseet where we were also not asked for proof of id or company name to print yet another ad: “ Seeking elegant looking female, with pleasant appearance and does not wear hijab for employment in a company. Age not to exceed 25 years. Daily/Weekly/Monthly employment. Good Salary. Experience, Citizenship and Qualifications not required.” The advert was published after the phrase “does not wear hijab” was omitted. At the paper’s head office in Mecca Street, we were asked for our id cards in order to proceed with the ad. When we said we didn’t have any on us, the clerk refused to print the ad.
Press and Publications Law No. 8 for the year 1998 and its amendments do not stipulate that advertisement tabloids must have knowledge of the party advertising or proof of id. There are no regulations to that effect.
Director-General of the Department of Press and Publications, Fayez Al Shawabkeh says: “In cases where the advertiser is unknown part of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the paper itself; they cannot claim lack of knowledge. The department has issued a statement requesting that all ads in the press maintain records of advertisers.”
Prints and publications legal expert, attorney Mohammad Qteishat confirms this by saying that “the party placing the ad must be known otherwise the paper will be held responsible and pursued by the legal system.” He adds: “this, however, does not mean that they will be penalised by law as there was no malicious intent by the paper itself towards anyone that the ad may have harmed.”
Loose regulations practised by “Al Waseet” and “Al Mumtaz”
We attempted to get the publication regulations adhered to by the two papers, but were unsuccessful. Al Waseet’s director Majed Alayan said his ads do not specify age and citizenship especially in the area of massage. They should not be morally demeaning. As for Ahmad Al Hadrab, director of Al Mumtaz, he stressed that ads printed in his paper have to adhere to general moral principles and should not be embarrassing to the public who has to read them and accept them.
Our content analysis concluded that the percentage of ads in Al Waseet that asked for a specific citizenship was 6% of all the posted adverts, whereas in Al Mumtaz it was 8%.
We also monitored the amount of times that ads requesting females who do not wear hijab were mentioned. In Al Waseet this was 1.1% of all ads seeking females and 1.7% in Al Mumtaz.
Media Expert Sawsan Zaydeh says: “Advertisements are part of the media yet when we talk about ethics and media practices, advertisements are not included!” She continues: “there are no principles or ethics that bind advertisements and the media sources themselves do not have clear boundaries for what governs an advert.”
Al Mumtaz threatens to take action if quoted
In an recorded interview, Ahmad Al Hadrab form al Mumtaz tabloid confirms that the paper does not ask for any proof of id. “There are no obscure ads. We print 4,000 a week but if we were to ask for ids and names for every advertiser” would print only once every six months. He continues angrily: “we are not in the business of defending fools, if girls are responding to every job seeking female ad that is not my problem.”
When they asked his opinion on the stories of girls who were accosted as a result of printed ads he erupted in anger and threw both journalists out of the office threatening to break the camera if they didn’t stop filming.“I will make it my business to shut down your radio station no matter how much it costs me, if you print anything regarding my point of view on such a matter!”
Al Waseet Apologizes
The director-general of Al Waseet, Majed Alayyan explains that the faults that were found were all “due to unintentional human error, which could happen as a result of tiredness or increased pressure at work.” He said his paper was very careful not to publish any obscure, vague, misleading or anonymous adverts. He adds “the advertiser shoulders the responsibility of his ad especially if his intention is dishonourable.” He also said that the public should ascertain the sources by calling the numbers provided and not rush into anything without further investigation.
He offered an apology to his readers “for any vagueness in the ads printed in the paper that may have caused harm to people, especially women.”
The Absence of the Department of Prints and Publications
Director-General of the Press and Publications Department Fayez Al Shawabkeh evaluates the professional practices of the publicity press as “good” as long as there are no complaints.
The specifications according to him are in accordance with what has been stipulated in Article 38 of the Press and Publications Law No.8 for the year 1998 and its amendments, which forbid the publication of anything that may offend citizens’ dignities or violate their freedoms and includes lies and false information. “Adverts are part of the media” as he put it.
Al Shawabkeh says if any paper is taken to task, it is due to complaints received and adds: “State institutions do not act on behalf of individuals in cases involving social embarrassments and as long as we don’t receive complaints I am not going to seek them or ask people to come and file them.” However he did conclude by saying that anyone who had an issue should report it.
Complaints not accepted
Our colleague Islam Abu Zahri went to the issuing authority for advertising tabloids – the Department of Press and Publications – to file a written complaint, pretending to be a reader who had been affected by one of the vague ads that had been published. The employee refused to accept the complaint saying it wasn’t the department’s business but that of the Ministry of Labour. Abu Zahri headed to the inspection department at said ministry and attempted to file the same complaint. The man in charge refused to accept. “That is a matter for the private sector, they are free to use whatever descriptions they want regardless of their intention. I don’t think adverts are governed by anyone.”
In response to our claims, Mr. Al Shawabkeh from the Press and Publications Department said: “we have not received any complaints about the adverts that have been published since 2010!”
He explains: “We cannot hold an ad in contravention if there has been no complaints”. There are 18 employees overseeing 196 publications and monitoring any violations. No wrongdoings have been reported.
Newspaper Advertisements disorganized and unregulated
Attorney Mohammad Qteishat believes there is a legal loophole in the print ad business in Jordan since the Press and Publications Law doesn’t cover that aspect, unlike the audio-visual adverts, which are governed by regulations. He goes on to add: “print adverts are not regulated, the Press and Publications Law oversees articles and other published content but does not cover advertisements.”
Al Shawabkeh responds by saying “there is no law that fixes everything and even if you were a lawmaker you would create a complete new section for adverts and regulations, for ad offices and for penalties in case of violations.”
While the status quo remains that of no regulations for the ad industry and a lack in Jordan of state institutions that follow-up on the damages incurred by job advertisements, there will definitely be more women hurt by misleading and obscure job adverts such as Israa and other female looking for jobs through these ads.
Israa recalls her time of difficulty and says: “I was almost a victim to a pervert who misled me and if it wasn’t for divine providence I would have surely fallen prey to his intentions and lived to regret what had happened.”
This investigation was completed by the Investigative Unit of Radio Al Balad with the support of the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism Network (www.arij.net)