Jordan’s Press Association (JPA) slammed parliament Thursday for approving a clause in a draft law that allows the imprisonment of journalists. "We reject this decision. We are opposed to the imprisonment of journalists for expressing their opinions by writing, verbally, or by any other means, and linking this to four taboos," JPA president Tarek Momani said. "At the same time we welcome parliament’s decision to scrap a clause calling for the arrest of journalists over publication matters," he added. During its deliberations of a controversial press and publication draft law, the 110-seat lower house approved Wednesday a clause to imprison journalists over four violations outlined in Article 26.
Source: [Middle East Times]
Yes, I’m disturbed by the news but not surprised. The sad reality is that such a step was somehow expected from the current parliament — whose performance thus far has been extremely disappointing. The Jordanian blogosphere wa quick to react to this new development. Khalaf has a nice wrap up of Jordanian columnists’ reaction to this new draft law. Also the UN news agency, IRIN, ran a feature last week detailing the depressing situation facing Jordanian journalists. Here is an excerpt:
Several incidents of attacks and harassment against journalists in Jordan have been reported since the beginning of this year. The latest involved a reporter from al-Rai newspaper, the most widely circulated Arabic daily, who was beaten up by a group of policemen last month in Amman. The journalist, Khalid Khawaja, was admitted to hospital because of wounds sustained in the attack. The police denied wrongdoing and shifted the blame on Khawaja for allegedly "beating and insulting a policeman on duty."
A few weeks earlier, three journalists from al-Ghad, al-Arab al-Yawm and al-Doustour dailies were arrested when they tried to cover a story in the northern city of Irbid and were reportedly threatened by the military governor to leave the area. Also, the editor al-Mehwar weekly tabloid, Hisham Khalidi, was fined US $15,000 on 9 February for publishing controversial material about a public institution. These events have provoked angry reactions from the media community, including the Jordan Press Association (JPA) and rights groups, who said such measures represent a flagrant infringement of basic human rights and curtail media freedoms.
You can read the full IRIN article here.
The irony is that the official Arab intelligentsia likes to scare us and the West, that if the Islamists win elections they will repress freedoms, and as such its better to hold the islamists at arms length. Well, from what we see the pro-regime political parties, the so called “centrists” or “moderates” as they like to refer to themselves, are capable of repression the likes of which we have not seen in Hamas-led Palestine or Islamist-led Turkey. But in the “moderate” Arab countries, the violent repression of freedoms has reached an epic proportion. Look at Tunis, Egypt, Syria, etc. Something is wrong with this picture.