Jordan blocks newspaper edition over story on ’secret’ Palestinian plan

New York, April 30, 2007—Jordanian authorities should lift their ban on today’s edition of an independent paper, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. Fahd al-Rimawi, editor of the weekly Al-Majd, told CPJ that security agents moved Sunday to prevent printing of the edition because of a front-page story about a “secret plan” to oust the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

Al-Rimawi said security officials told him they would ban the April 30 edition if he did not remove the article, The Associated Press reported. In an interview with CPJ, al-Rimawi said the issue had already been sent out for printing. Like many small tabloids in Jordan, Al-Majd is printed by larger publications that own printing presses. In this case, the leading pro-government daily Al-Rai handles Al-Majd’s printing.

The ban was triggered by Al-Majd’s publication of a purported 16-page secret plan, devised by U.S. and unnamed Arab “sides,” that would enable Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to oust the rival Hamas-led Palestinian government from power. The article, which included documents and details of the purported plan, could still be viewed late today on Al-Majd’s Web site.

“This flagrant act of censorship is further evidence of the poor state of press freedom in Jordan,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Officials should allow Al-Majd to be printed immediately.”

CPJ has documented two previous occasions, in March 2002 and May 2005, in which Al-Majd has been censored because of sensitive articles. Al-Majd is licensed to publish weekly but currently comes out twice per month.

In at least two recent cases, Jordanian authorities seized interviews deemed harmful to national security or relations with neighboring countries. On April 18, the Jordanian government seized a taped Al-Jazeera interview with former crown prince Hassan bin Talal over fears it might harm its relationship with Saudi Arabia.

In June 2006, Jordanian security services abruptly halted a live Al-Jazeera interview with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s brother-in-law following the Al-Qaeda leader’s death, and briefly detained the satellite channel’s interviewer Yasser Abu Hilala, and his crew in al-Zarqa, north of Amman.