Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 22
Political Influences: 22
Economic Pressures: 18
Total Score: 62
Life Expectancy: 72
Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim (92 percent), Christian (6 percent), other (2 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Arab (98 percent), other [including Armenian] (2 percent)
Jordan continued to take small steps forward to advance press freedom in 2004, building on gains in the previous year. While the government allowed the licensing of private television and radio stations for the first time in the country's history, it continued to take actions that restricted press freedom. In 2003, the government replaced the Ministry of Information with an appointed Higher Media Council to regulate the media, and it repealed the penal code to eliminate an article that gave the State Security Court the power to close publications and imprison individuals for publishing information deemed harmful to national unity or the reputation of the state. Despite these improvements, other articles of the penal code continue to limit press freedom, such as provisions that restrict criticism of the royal family, the national assembly, and public officials. In addition, Jordan's Law on Press and Publications continues to allow journalists to be detained for writing articles considered harmful to the interests of the state; amendments to the law to forbid these detentions were proposed in 2004 but not approved by year's end. According to the law that governs the Jordan Press Association (JPA), membership in the JPA is a prerequisite to journalistic legitimacy.
Jordan features many private publications. In August, a new independent daily newspaper, Al-Ghad, started publishing, and it has received praise for its critiques of the Jordanian government and investigative journalism. However, the government closely monitors content in the print media. The state reportedly plants informers at newspapers to alert officials to what they consider objectionable articles before they are published. Editors and journalists report that at times they receive official warnings not to publish certain articles, and there is said to be a significant degree of editorial and self-censorship. In January, security agents detained (and then released) Muaffak Mahadin, managing editor of the weekly Al-Wihda, on charges of insulting the Jordanian armed forces. For several days in May, government authorities detained Fahd Rimawi, chief editor of Al-Majd, a small independent weekly tabloid, after a military prosecutor suspended the newspaper for publishing articles deemed damaging to Jordan's relations with Saudi Arabia; Rimawi had accused Saudi Arabia of being a "puppet" of the United States. He was eventually released without charge, and the newspaper's suspension was lifted. The state prosecutor suspended the paper once again in September after it published an article critical of Arab oil-producing countries.
The government owns substantial shares in Jordan's two leading Arabic daily newspapers and must license all publications. There are high taxes on the media industry and tariffs on paper, and the government has been criticized for advertising primarily in newspapers in which it has ownership. In 2003, the government officially gave up its monopoly on domestic television and radio broadcast media by creating a new Audio Visual Licensing Authority, which in 2004 began to license and regulate private radio and television broadcasts. The government issued a license to one new radio station and one satellite television station, but neither had started broadcasting by the end of the year. An increasing number of Jordanians are able to access regional satellite television channels without restrictions. Jordanians generally enjoy unrestricted access to the Internet. The government reportedly attempts to block access to certain Web sites, including those that openly criticize the king.
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