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Attacks on the Press in 2004 - Jordan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2005
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2004 - Jordan, February 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c566dfc.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Government promises of modernization and reform have not led to greater press freedom in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In a May survey by the local Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, 70 percent of responding reporters and editors said media liberties had remained static or had deteriorated. Sixty-five percent believe that the media do not operate independently and that authorities regularly interfere with news coverage.

Although private publications abound and Jordan's press enjoys more freedom than the norm in the region, journalists remain highly constrained by a well-established system of direct and indirect government restrictions.

In January, security agents detained Muaffak Mahadin, managing editor of the private weekly Al-Wihda (The Unity), accusing him of printing "false and harmful information" about the Jordanian armed forces. Mahadin had published an article that discussed cooperation between Jordanian troops and U.S. forces in Iraq, a sensitive topic in the kingdom. Security officials and a State Security Court prosecutor questioned the editor before releasing him the same day without charge.

In May, a State Security Court prosecutor ordered the arrest of Fahd al-Rimawi, editor-in-chief of the private weekly Al-Majd (The Glory), and accused him of violating the country's Penal Code by harming relations with a friendly Arab country. Al-Rimawi angered authorities by writing an editorial that accused Saudi officials of subservience to the United States for their support of U.S. military objectives in Iraq. Government spokeswoman Asma Khader, herself a former human rights activist, chastised al-Rimawi, saying he should "respect certain ethical rules and take into account national interest." The journalist was released after two days in jail; his newspaper, which a court had suspended, was allowed to resume publishing after he agreed to print an article saying that Saudi-Jordanian relations were strong and that he had not intended to harm them.

Al-Rimawi's troubles did not end there. In September, a state security court prosecutor ordered Al-Majd's printer not to publish an edition of the newspaper after officials objected to articles about oil grants to Jordan from several Gulf countries. The prosecutor canceled the newspaper's license outright a few days later, but the license was reinstated after protests from journalists.

The government proposed amendments to the Press and Publications Law that would forbid the arrest or imprisonment of journalists for press offenses. But Parliament had not approved the amendments by year's end, and their impact would be inconsequential in any case. Provisions in the Penal Code and other laws still allow authorities to detain, prosecute, and imprison journalists for their work.

Restrictive laws are just one tool the government uses to exert control. Behind the scenes, officials employ an efficient system of indirect pressure aimed at keeping journalists in check. Phone calls and warnings from state security agents to journalists are common, dampening editorial zeal. The security service also enlists journalists to keep close tabs on their colleagues.

The country boasts dozens of private newspapers and magazines, but self-censorship remains pervasive. Journalists avoid criticism of the king, the royal family, the army, and the security services. In November, for example, editorial and op-ed pages steered clear of any commentary about King Abdullah's decision to remove his half-brother as heir apparent. The presence of U.S. troops in the country is another off-limits topic. Private weekly newspapers tend to be more aggressive in political coverage than daily papers.

The government introduced a licensing system for private radio and TV stations in 2003, ending its monopoly over broadcast media. At least six radio stations were licensed, according to local journalists, but the government said it would not take further applications for the time being. Those that were licensed air only music and entertainment. The licensing regulations stipulate an exorbitant fee for private broadcasters seeking to air political news.


2004 Documented Cases – Jordan

MAY 9, 2004
Posted: June 2, 2004

Fahd Al-Rimawi, Al-Majd
LEGAL ACTION

Al-Majd
CENSORED

Al-Rimawi, editor of the weekly Al-Majd, was detained at Amman's international airport after arriving from the United States, where he had been visiting his son.

He was released that evening and told to report to prosecutors the next day, when when he was detained overnight. The journalist was released the next day after the head of Jordan's Higher Media Council, the head of the journalists syndicate, and the prosecutor of the State Security Court brokered a deal for the journalist's release.

Al-Rimawi told CPJ he was detained in connection with an editorial he wrote for the May 3 edition of Al-Majd that criticized Saudi Arabia and its relationship with United States and quoted information from Plan of Attack, the new book by U.S. journalist Bob Woodward claiming that Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz knew of U.S. plans for war in Iraq before Secretary of State Colin Powell. The editorial also stated that Saudi Arabia would increase oil production, thereby lowering the cost of oil and bolstering President Bush's re-election campaign.

Al-Rimawi was charged with violating Article 118 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes the publication of anything that disturbs Jordan's relations with foreign states. The prosecutor also ordered the paper's suspension.

Per the terms of his release, al-Rimawi agreed to publish an editorial in the following edition of the weekly claiming that he did not intend to harm relations between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The case against him was dropped, and the weekly was allowed to reopen.

In the days following the publication of Al-Rimawi's May 3 editorial, Saudi Arabia agreed to renew its grant to supply oil to Jordan, which had relied on Iraqi oil prior to the U.S. led war on Iraq in March 2003. Journalists told CPJ that the Jordanian government was sensitive to criticism of Saudi Arabia following the agreement, and that the Saudi Embassy in Amman had complained to Jordanian officials about the articles.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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