Editor-in-chief held in detention

New York, October 30, 2008–A Jordanian editor battling a lawsuit filed by a governor will be held for 15 days while an investigation is completed, the Jordanian military court ruled on Tuesday. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the decision, calling it a “perplexing and ominous sign of intolerance toward the media.”

Faiz al-Ajrashi, editor-in-chief of the weekly Al-Akhbariya, has been charged with “agitating sectarian tension and creating strife among people” under article 150 of the Penal Code, defense lawyer Mohammed Qutaishat told CPJ. Qutaishat said al-Ajrashi could face between six months and three years imprisonment if convicted.

Last month, the governor of Amman, Saed al-Wadi al-Manasir, filed a lawsuit in the State Security Court against al-Ajrashi after the newspaper published articles criticizing the governor’s performance.

“We are disturbed by the criminal prosecution of a journalist who reported in the public interest, and we are utterly dismayed that this is taking place in a military court,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The case against al-Ajrashi should be dropped immediately before it does further damage to Jordan’s press freedom record.”

Al-Ajrashi’s lawyer is appealing Tuesday’s decision.

The editor is also facing another charge of failing to “respect the truth and lack of objectivity” under the Press Law, his lawyer told CPJ. If convicted on this count, he could be fined up to 500 Jordanian dinars (US$700), Qutaishat said.