New York, Mach 18, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by three-month prison sentences handed down to five Jordanian journalists in two separate defamation cases in a week.
Editor Taher al-Adwan and reporter Sahar Qassam of the Arabic daily Al-Arab al-Youm, former Ad-Dustour editor Osama Sharif, and Ad-Dustour reporter Fayez Louzi were sentenced Thursday under the penal code to three months in prison each for “insulting the judiciary and commenting on its rulings,” according to Jordanian news reports.
The two dailies were taken to court by the Higher Judicial Council, the country’s highest judicial body, for publishing stories in 2006 about a Jordanian who had filed a lawsuit challenging a government decision concerning his citizenship, The Jordan Times reported.
In a similar case, Abdul Hedi al-Majali of the daily Al-Rai was sentenced on Sunday to three months in prison for defaming the former general director of the state-run Jordanian Center for Information in an online article. This prison sentence against al-Majali is the first of its kind triggered by an online article, the daily Al-Ghad said on Tuesday.
“A law that criminalizes commenting on judicial decisions effectively bars court reporting,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The Jordanian government should rescind this law immediately. Jailing these five journalists would compound the injustice.”
The five journalists remain free and have two weeks to appeal the verdicts, Jordanian lawyers told CPJ.
While the Jordanian government has expunged prison sentences from its latest version of the Press and Publications Law, provisions of the penal code still permit the imprisonment of journalists for their work.