Key Developments

  • Government forces, allies silence coverage through attacks, seizures, and threats.

  • "Anti-corruption" legislation would restrict news coverage of corruption.

Security forces tried to restrict coverage of the country's civil unrest by attacking journalists covering pro-reform protests, often confiscating or destroying their equipment. Authorities raided the office of a news website in April, destroying equipment and threatening staff members. The same month, Al-Jazeera received a series of threats that its offices and journalists would be attacked if the network did not tone down coverage of the protests; the network's Amman bureau chief said he had received death threats by telephone and social media. Other attacks included the hacking of a news website in February for refusing to take down a critical statement from a group of Jordanian tribesmen calling for political and economic reforms. In an Orwellian maneuver, the lower chamber of parliament passed a bill in September that was marketed as fighting corruption. In fact, some provisions would accomplish the opposite: They would impose heavy new fines against journalists who report on corruption without "solid facts." Facing heavy opposition from journalists, the upper chamber sent the bill to committee for further review. Despite a long list of press freedom abuses, Jordanian leaders escaped criticism from the United States, which sought to maintain close relations with the kingdom.

[Refworld note: The sections that follow represent a best effort to transcribe onto a single page information that appears in tabs on the CPJ's own pages, which also include a number of graphics not readily reproducible here. Refworld researchers are therefore strongly recommended to check against the original report: Attacks on the Press in 2011.]

Dinars in potential fines: 60,000

On September 27, the chamber of deputies passed a measure billed as "anti-corruption" that would impose fines ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 dinars (US$42,300 to US$84,600) for public accusations of corruption "without solid facts." The legislation did not define what constituted "solid facts." The upper house sent the bill to committee in late year. Other countries in the region adopted press legislation in 2011 that was portrayed as reform but actually imposed new penalties for critical reporting.

Other restrictive regional measures:

Syria: With a new law passed in August, journalists could face fines of up to 1 million pounds (US$21,000) for vaguely defined violations such as coverage that harmed "national unity and national security," according to CPJ research.

Saudi Arabia: With amendments adopted in May, first-time violators of the country's restrictive media law could face fines of 500,000 Saudi riyals (US $135,000), while second-time offenders could draw a 1 million riyal (US$270,000) fine and a potential ban on working, according to CPJ research.

Attacks on journalists: 70

Between February and July, a period of intense political unrest, CPJ recorded at least 70 direct attacks on journalists and news stations. Security forces assaulted journalists at protests, raided a news station, and threatened other journalists for their news coverage, CPJ research shows.

Attacks between February and July:

43: Assaults

23: Seizures or destruction of equipment

2: Threats

1: Office raid

1: Website hacked

Assaults at single protest: 16

At a July demonstration in Amman, security forces beat 16 journalists wearing orange "press" vests, CPJ research shows. The vests, provided by the Public Security Directorate, were supposed to distinguish journalists from demonstrators and provide a greater level of safety. Jordan's royal court said it would cover the cost of medical treatment for the injured journalists.

Of the injured journalists:

2: Suffered broken bones

1: Underwent surgery

The targeted journalists worked for a variety of organizations, including:

– Al-Jazeera
The New York Times
– Agence France-Presse

Supporting Al-Jazeera: 52

In April, 52 Jordanian journalists issued a statement expressing support for Al-Jazeera journalists threatened with attack for their coverage of the unrest.

Another severe threat in April:

Six: Unidentified men stormed the office of Al-Muharrir's editor-in-chief, Jihad Abu Baidar, threatening to kill him and burn his offices if he did not withdraw an article about corruption, news reports said.

One: Al-Muharrir employee was beaten by assailants, and one computer was destroyed.

Million Facebook users: 1.9

Social media played a pivotal role in galvanizing the Arab public for mass protests against their repressive regimes. Jordanian agents hacked a website in reprisal for its publication of a pro-reform statement. With about 1.9 million users, Jordan has high Facebook penetration in the region, based on the social media site's data and population statistics from the U.N. Population Fund.

Facebook use in the region:

United Arab Emirates: 2.6 million users, 57 percent of the population

Bahrain: 303,000, 37.5 percent

Lebanon: 1.29 million, 30 percent

Jordan: 1.9 million, 29 percent

Tunisia: 2.7 million, 26 percent

This 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.