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In Jordan, attacks on the press go unpunished

Protesters shout slogans against the media in front of the AFP office in Amman after the agency ran a story about the president's motorcade. (Reuters/Ali Jarekji)

New York, June 21, 2011--On the heels of an attack on Agence France-Presse's Amman offices, the Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Jordanian government to hold to account those who threaten or attack journalists.

Ten men in plainclothes attacked AFP's offices on Wednesday, destroying furniture and equipment, said AFP journalist Kamal Taha, who was on duty at the time, according to international news reports. The assault came just three hours after an unidentified caller made threats of physical harm against AFP Amman bureau chief Randa Habib and the agency's office, local and regional media reported. Although Habib relayed the threats to authorities, they failed to take measures to prevent that attack, The New York Times said.

The threats and the assault came two days after a June 13 AFP story that referred to an incident in which men threw bottles at King Abdullah's motorcade during a visit to the town of Tafileh. Officials denied that the motorcade was attacked. The next day, some 300 government loyalists demanded the closure of AFP's offices for "inaccurate reporting," news reports said.  

"Vows by Jordanian officials to find and bring to justice the perpetrators of every recent attack on the media have come to nothing," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. "These unfulfilled assurances amount to a tacit endorsement of violence against the press."

Local journalists held a protest in solidarity with AFP in which they demanded accountability for the attack. Emmanuel Hoog, AFP chairman and chief executive, denied in a letter to Jordanian Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit that the outlet had perpetrated "subversive intrigue" by publishing its story. Noting an official condemnation of the attack and a swiftly launched government investigation, Hoog added that he expected "immediate" and "concrete measures" to be taken to prevent additional attacks.

Today, Information Minister Taher Adwan resigned, citing laws that he viewed as "restrictive for freedom of expression" and "the repeated attacks on journalists who are doing their professional duties." Adwan, a veteran journalist and the former editor-in-chief of a popular daily, Al-Arab al-Yawm, had issued a prompt condemnation of the attack on AFP.

CPJ has documented multiple attacks on media in Jordan since March, including threats against Al-Jazeera staffers, assaults on journalists covering pro-reform demonstrations, and the hacking of news websites. 

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