CPJ calls on Jordan to prevent attacks on journalists

New York, July 18, 2011The Committee to Protect Journalists called on the government of Jordan to do more to prevent attacks on journalists who cover demonstrations and other forms of civil unrest. On Friday, security forces beat 16 journalists in identifying orange vests during a demonstration and planned sit-in that rapidly devolved into clashes between security personnel and government supporters with demonstrators.

The injured journalists, numbering 16 according to the Jordanian Journalists’ Syndicate, included two who suffered broken bones, one of whom had to undergo surgery, according to news reports. The assaulted journalists work for a variety of local and international news organizations, including Al-Jazeera and The New York Times.  

An unnamed Agence France-Presse photographer reported that journalists “were beaten by police, although we were wearing special press vests.” The bright orange vests were meant to distinguish media from demonstrators. The vests were provided by the Public Security Directorate (PSD) in coordination with the journalists’ syndicate as one of multiple measures taken to ensure journalists’ safety and to facilitate coverage.

On Saturday, Lt. General Hussein al-Majali, PSD director, launched an investigation into the incident to be led by his deputy for legal affairs, Al-Jazeera reported. The PSD also announced on Saturday that four policemen had been suspended, noting that the investigation’s conclusions would be announced within 72 hours (Tuesday). Jordan’s royal court announced that it would cover the cost of medical treatment for the injured journalists, according to the same news report. On Sunday, the journalists’ syndicate announced that it plans to pursue legal action against the PSD, news reports said.

“While the measures undertaken by Jordanian authorities are commendable, they are by no means sufficient to reverse an entrenched pattern of systematic targeting of journalists,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “The latest assault on journalists, as unfortunate as it is, provides authorities with an opportunity to unambiguously demonstrate that they will no longer tolerate attacks on members of the media who report on politically sensitive topics. Those who ordered and executed this assault must be held to account.”

CPJ has documented several assaults on the press in Jordan since March, including attacks against news bureaus, threats against media staffers, assaults on journalists covering demonstrations, and the hacking of news websites. In April, CPJ said that government failure to take decisive legal measures against those who physically assault journalists in Jordan amounts to a tacit endorsement of such attacks.