Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 21
Political Influences: 22
Economic Pressures: 18
Total Score: 61
Life Expectancy: 72
Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim (92 percent), Christian (6 percent), other (2 percent
Ethnic Groups: (98 percent), other [including Armenian] (2 percent)
The constitution upholds Jordanians' right to freedom of expression and holds that "freedom of the press and publications shall be ensured within the limits of the law." Though senior politicians have said that these provisions will no longer be enforced, articles of the penal and press codes restrict criticism of the royal family, the National Assembly, public officials, and the armed forces, as well as speech that might harm Jordan's foreign relations. Within limits, criticism of the Jordanian government and its allies is tolerated in practice, as is speech in favor of Islamist movements, though criticism of the royal family is still taboo. According to the law that governs the Jordan Press Association (JPA), journalists must be members of the JPA to work legally. In the past, critical journalists have been excluded from the JPA and thereby prevented from practicing their profession. In February, King Abdullah II established a National Agenda Committee to review and reform legislation. Among the committee's proposals was the striking of the requirement that journalists belong to the JPA. A draft law on access to information was introduced in 2005, the first of its kind in the region, though the law has been criticized for its many loopholes. In July, the cabinet proposed a new press law that would abolish prepublication censorship and the arrest of journalists who had been performing their work. Journalists would be protected from having to reveal their sources, and banning a publication would require a court ruling. However, the Parliament had not enacted either reform by the end of 2005.
Editors and journalists report that they have received official warnings to refrain from publishing certain articles or to avoid certain topics, and that security officials have pressured printers to hold publications until editors agree to remove sensitive stories. In April, authorities delayed the publication of Al-Wihda, a private weekly newspaper, until editors removed an article by Muwaffaq Mahadin – who had run afoul of the authorities before – claiming that Prime Minister Adnan Badran's new government had been formed undemocratically. In June, security officials delayed publication of Al-Majd, a weekly newspaper that focuses on political issues, because they objected to an interview with a member of parliament who supported the Iraqi insurgency. And in March, authorities detained and questioned a journalist and two editors for the daily Al-Ghad on suspicion that a story published in the paper was fabricated.
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 Audiovisual Licensing Authority, which in 2004 began to license and regulate private radio and television broadcasters. Licenses have been issued for one new radio and one satellite television station, but neither has started broadcasting yet. No restrictions are placed on satellite broadcasts, and satellite dishes continue to proliferate. The Jordanian government is actively seeking to promote access to the internet and says that it places no restrictions on access to information online for its 600,000 users. However, according to the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, a local media rights organization, 42.7 percent of media workers believe that internet sites were censored in 2005, up from 23 percent who believed so in 2004.
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