Jordanian government harassament, censorship draw concern

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that Jordanian authorities have harassed and censored journalists on several occasions since your government was formed in April. Several journalists interviewed by CPJ in recent weeks said that authorities have pressured printers to delay the publication of newspapers until editors agreed to remove critical articles. Further, editors have received phone calls from security officials instructing them how to cover certain events.

Publication of the weekly Al-Wihda, which has been censored before, was delayed on April 10 by security authorities until an article by journalist Muwaffaq Mahadin was removed. Mahadin told CPJ that the article was critical of how your government was formed, claiming that its selection was undemocratic and that it was no different than previous governments. Al-Wihda was allowed to publish only after Mahadin’s article was excised.
Fahd al-Rimawi, editor of the weekly newspaper Al-Majd, another often-censored weekly, told CPJ that publication of his May 8 edition was delayed by the printer under pressure from security officials. Authorities objected to Al-Majd‘s planned interview with a member of parliament who said he supported the Iraqi insurgency and was opposed to the interim government of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Al-Rimawi told CPJ that the interview was removed after the member of parliament was pressured to rescind his comments. Al-Rimawi said he often receives calls from the printer, which is partly owned by the state,
or security authorities telling him that editions will not be published until certain material is removed.

Publication of at least one other weekly newspaper was delayed recently because of critical articles, local journalists told CPJ. The printing of the weekly Al-Jazeera was held back one day until three front-page articles critical of government policies were removed.
Journalists also told CPJ that several newspaper editors received calls from security officials prior to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s visit to Jordan last month, instructing them to be careful not to support the insurgency in Iraq in their coverage. Relations between Jordan and Iraq have been tense n recent months, and Talabani’s visit to Jordan in May was his first international trip as Iraq’s president.

Since taking office on April 7, 2005, you have publicly stated on several occasions your government’s commitment to political reform, including your support for freedom of the press. On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, you wrote to Jordan’s Higher Media Council and the Jordan Press Association promising that your government “will provide the arena for a freer press as part of the overall reform process.” In practice, however, journalists continue to face serious restrictions. Censorship and intimidation of journalists represent undisguised attacks on the most basic global standard for a free press. We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that Jordanian officials cease their interference with the press, and we call on you to take all necessary measures to make certain that journalists are able to carry out their work freely.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your reply.


Ann Cooper
Executive Director