A Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher has charged that “Jordan is attacking free speech, both by pursuing journalists under draconian laws and by failing to hold police accountable when they stand by doing nothing… when journalists are attacked”.
"Character assassination is a hot topic in Jordan these days as thousands of demonstrators riding the winds of the ‘Arab Spring’ call for reform and accuse government officials and business leaders of abuse of power and corruption," Christoph Wilcke, HRW senior Middle East researcher, said in a commentary posted on the HRW website last week.
He claimed that Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit’s government is stifling free speech “in the name of fighting corruption”, citing an amendment to the Anti-Corruption Law that would punish people who spread “unjustified” rumours about corruption that “lead to insulting the reputation or infringing upon the dignity” of another person, with at least six months in prison.
He called for annulling articles in the Penal Code that send “peaceful critics” to jail for insulting the King or government institutions, adding that in May, Ministry of Political Development Secretary General Malek Twal promised that a new media strategy would reform those provisions.
Wilcke's commentary also highlighted the case of online news publisher Alaa Fazza, who was detained for few days before he was released after his case stirred protest by press freedom activists and local journalists.
Moreover, Wilcke criticised MP Yahya Saud for leading protests “seeking to have Agence France-Presse (AFP) Amman bureau chief, Randa Habib, referred to the SSC following an AFP report that Tafileh residents attacked the King’s convoy on a visit there in June.
"Al Jazeera correspondents have also been the victims of physical and verbal attacks. Two correspondents’ cars were smashed in March, and a policeman assaulted the bureau chief, Yasir Abu Hilala, while he was covering a demonstration in Amman on July 15," Wilcke said.