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Journalists, who are obliged to join the state-controlled Jordanian Press Association, also come under close surveillance from the intelligence services. The state remains the major shareholder of the major newspapers and continues to exert a strong influence over the kingdom’s leading dailies (al-Ra’i, Jordan Times, al-Dustour). A minor breach was opened in the state television and radio monopoly at the beginning of 2004, with the launch of the first privately owned general-interest television channel.
Despite the fact that press offences were theoretically decriminalised in March 2007, as a result of a parliamentary vote amending the press and publications law, the kingdom’s journalists still live in fear of being imprisoned. More than one hundred clauses in national legislation (criminal code, law of exception and others) still allow journalists to be put behind bars. Further, this decriminalisation of offences has been accompanied by a hike in the fines permitted under the law on publications for “defamation”, “offence against religion” and “publication of news likely to stoke up ethnic and racial tension”. These fines can go as high as 40,000 dollars. In addition, the passing of the 2007 law on access to information has not eased the work of journalists, who still find themselves coming up against agents of the state with little enthusiasm for providing information about their activities. Finally, since 2007, online publications have been brought under the same law as the written press.
Despite King Abdallah II’s reassuring statements about press freedom in November 2008 in which the monarch reaffirmed that no journalist should go to prison for their professional work, unpredictable interpretation of the law by the courts is one of the main reasons for convictions against the press, fostering a climate of fear within the profession. Moreover, journalists and their editors display a tendency to caution in their comments and in particular avoid any investigative reporting that could compromise political figures.
A draft law designed to still further restrict freedom of expression, assembly and association has been under examination in parliament during 2009, constituting a threat to media freedom in the Hashemite kingdom.
Jordan - 30 August 2012
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