August 8, 2002
His Excellency Ali Abu al-Ragheb
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Via facsimile: 962-6-464-2520
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly protests your government’s closure of the Amman bureau of the Qatar-based satellite television channel Al-Jazeera. On August 7, Information Minister Muhammad Adwan revoked the station’s license to operate in Jordan and barred its staff from working for the station in the country. The move came after a guest on that day’s broadcast of the debate program “Opposite Direction” criticized Jordan’s relationship with Israel.
International reports said Adwan accused the station of inciting “sedition” in Jordan and “defaming” the royal family.
Staff at the station said they only learned about the closure after the official news agency Petra reported the minister’s statements.
Regrettably, this is not the first time Jordanian authorities have censored the station. In 1998, the Amman bureau was shut down for several weeks after participants in another talk show debate criticized Jordan. The closure of Al-Jazeera’s office clearly violates basic international norms for free expression and also contradicts the public statements of Jordanian officials who have supported freedom of expression; His Majesty King Abdullah has repeatedly stated over the years that “the sky is the limit” for press freedom in Jordan.
However, the government’s intolerance of critical discourse, demonstrated by this most recent closure, indicates that Jordan is far from achieving basic standards of press freedom that are the hallmark of open societies.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ urges you to ensure that Al-Jazeera’s office reopens immediately, and that its staff can carry out their professional duties without future interference from Jordanian authorities.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We await your reply.