The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today accused the Jordanian legal authorities of “judicial intimidation that stifles legitimate debate about the rule of law” following a judgement sending five journalists to jail over articles criticising court decisions and a government official.
“These sentences are harsh, disproportionate and intimidating,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “The judicial system is cynically using the threat of prison to stifle legitimate debate about the rule of law in Jordan.”
The five journalists were convicted of offending the court and defamation in connection with articles published in newspapers and online. The IFJ says that fair comment by journalists on the workings of the legal system is a vital component of democracy.
“Even judges in their finery are not above public scrutiny and legitimate review,” said White. “These journalists must be freed immediately.”
The court's ruling was handed down last week but only announced publicly yesterday.
According to press reports, Taher al Edwan, editor in chief of Al Arab Al Youm, Osama al Sharef, ex-editor in chief of Al Dostor, and two other journalists working for the newspapers were given three-month prison sentences for publishing a commentary on a ruling by the High Judicial Council on the nationality law. The Council, the top legal body, said the ruling was immune from criticism.
A journalist working for Al-Rai received a three-month jail term for defamation after publishing a commentary on the web that criticised a Jordanian official.
Jordan recently passed a media law that abolished imprisonment for media offences but there are still provisions under Jordanian laws, particularly in the penal code, which can be used to send journalists to jail.
“Like many of its Middle Eastern neighbours, Jordan has officially removed provisions for prison sentences from its media law and we welcome this,” said White. “But it has retained provisions in other laws that still allow courts to continue to jail independent journalists and stifle legitimate comment. These must go too.”
For more information contact the IFJ at + 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide