In Jordan, blogger stabbed after criticizing the royal family

New York, February 29, 2012–Jordan authorities must undertake a serious investigation into the stabbing of a blogger who wrote critically about the Jordanian royal family, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Enass Musallam told CPJ she was stabbed by a masked assailant while leaving a café in the capital, Amman, on February 20. Musallam said a man in a face mask and gloves grabbed her from behind and said, “In the name of His Royal Majesty and the prince,” before he stabbed her just above the stomach. He then put the knife to her throat and said, “Next time, you will be slaughtered,” before pushing her down the stairs and running away, she said. The journalist said a friend drove her to the hospital, where she underwent surgery and remained for five days.

Musallam told CPJ that the day before she was stabbed, she wrote an article on her blog that said Prince Hassan bin Talal’s comments about dispersing the protesters in Amman’s Palm Tree Square were condescending and insulting. She has also criticized the government for corruption on her blog, CPJ research shows.

The Public Security Directorate launched an investigation into the attack and said in a statement on February 22 that the stabbing was a result of a disagreement between friends or a lover’s tiff, and that Musallam suffered from “turbulent and volatile behavior.” The investigation did not result in any arrests, the journalist said.

“We’re dismayed that officials have not seriously responded to this serious crime, and we hold them responsible for Enass Musallam’s safety,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Jordanian journalists who have written even the mildest critiques of the royal family have been subjected to intimidation, smears, and physical violence.”

Musallam told CPJ that on Sunday, the day after she left the hospital, she was called in to the police’s criminal investigation unit, where she remained for six hours without her lawyer or a family member present. She said a police officer repeatedly called her a liar, and said she would not be allowed to continue her education at the university. 

Musallam told CPJ she was called in to the police station again the next day, where police told her she probably “imagined” everything. She said police were pressuring her friends to say she was a “drunk and a drug dealer and difficult to deal with.” 

Journalists who write critically about the royal family have faced similar threats in the past, CPJ research shows. A Jordanian news website was hacked in February 2011 for running a statement by tribesmen calling for reforms in the kingdom.