The head of a Jordanian trade regulatory body on September 10, 2017, publically accused a regional press freedom group, the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ), of failing to properly register as a non-profit organization, and referred the case to Jordan’s attorney general who can then begin legal processes against the group that could include arrest, interrogation or a court trial, the pro-government daily Addustor reported.
The trade regulator’s head, Ramsi Nozha, said the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists should stop receiving all funding due to the alleged registration discrepancy, according to Addustor.
The center’s founder and head Nidal Mansour told CPJ that Nozha said he will cancel the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists’ legal status if the group violates his order.
The media watchdog group denied the accusations in a statement published by Addustor. Still, media outlets, led by Addustor, continued to accuse the organization, as well as other groups who receive foreign aid, of being a threat to Jordan. One of the reports from Addustor about the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists was titled “The Untold Story of Foreign Funding Cases.”
Mansour, told CPJ that, while his organization had been the subject of an ongoing registration investigation led by Nozha since March, the center had cooperated with Nozha’s office and provided documentation proving it has been legally registered in Jordan since 1998.
Mansour also told CPJ that the charges against him are part of a larger crackdown on civil society in Jordan. Local and international groups, including Human Rights Watch, have expressed concern that the Jordanian government is targeting Mansour and the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists in retaliation for their advocacy for Jordanian and Arab journalists.
The Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists has published six reports that chronicle a rise in government censorship in Jordan and criticized the Jordanian government for failing to deliver on their 2013 pledges, under the United Nations’ Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodical Review, to uphold press freedom, in particular with regard to online publications.