Press association expels secretary general

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New York, September 6, 2000–The state-sanctioned Jordan Press Association (JPA) expelled its secretary general, a weekly newspaper editor, from the organization yesterday because of his work with a local press freedom group, according to CPJ sources.

The action highlights the fact that despite King Abdullah’s pledges to promote press freedom, Jordanian journalists remain vulnerable to the country’s archaic press laws.

The JPA’s decision to expel Nidal Mansour, editor of the weekly Al-Hadath and head of the Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ), an Amman-based organization that he founded, means Mansour is legally barred from practicing journalism in Jordan. Both the JPA’s bylaws and the Press and Publications Law stipulate that Jordanian journalists must belong to the JPA in order to work in the country.

In July, the JPA’s disciplinary council launched an investigation against Mansour, charging that he had violated press association bylaws by accepting foreign funding for the CDFJ and by not working full time as a journalist. After several hearings, the council recommended this week that Mansour be suspended for a period of one year. The JPA governing body then increased the punishment, decreeing a permanent ban. Mansour plans to appeal the decision to Jordan’s High Court of Justice.

“The JPA has once again demonstrated its utter disregard for basic press freedom principles,” said CPJ Mideast program coordinator Joel Campagna. “It’s past time for the government to remove the JPA’s power to decide who may and may not practice journalism in Jordan.”

For years, Jordan’s government has ignored calls from journalists and international press-freedom organizations to abolish mandatory JPA membership. In February 2000, King Abdullah II, who is presently in New York attending the Millenium Summit at the United Nations, told a group of press freedom advocates that mandatory membership was indeed problematic and that he would work to eliminate it.

The JPA’s expulsion of Mansour is the second such case in the past year. In October 1999, the association expelled three journalists from its ranks–Abdullah Hasanat of the English-language daily Jordan Times, Sultan Hattab of the daily Al-Rai, and Jihad Momani of the daily Al-Dustour–for violating JPA bylaws that prohibit so-called normalization with Israel. The journalists were cited for having visited Israel to attend a seminar at Haifa University.

The JPA reversed the decision in November 1999, announcing that all three had “agreed to sign a statement proposed by the JPA … stating that fighting normalization with Israel was a necessity.”