DRAFT LAWS FALL SHORT OF INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS
In a legal analysis of the 2004 Jordanian Press and Publications Law, ARTICLE 19 says that while it marks a slight improvement over the existing press law, many of its provisions allow the government to retain its control of the press.
Journalists are required to become members of the Jordan Journalists' Association, making them vulnerable to pressure from that body. Those wishing to launch a publication face numerous bureaucratic hurdles, such as obtaining a licence, demonstrating substantial capital reserves and appointing managers or editors with academic qualifications.
The draft law also contains vague content restrictions, including a criminally enforceable duty to respect the "values of the Arab and Islamic nation" and to report in a "balanced, objective, and honest" manner.
The proposed legislation is to be discussed in parliament in January 2006.
On the positive side, the draft law abolishes arrest and imprisonment for press crimes, reduces the number of restrictions on the content of what can be published, and eliminates the possibility of publications being closed.
Meanwhile, an AAI report says a draft Law on Access to Information contains too many loopholes to be considered an effective guarantor of the public's right to obtain government documents.
For instance, Article 7 of the law prohibits public requests for information deemed to contain "religious, racial and ethnic discrimination or discrimination based on sex or colour." AAI says the vague wording could be interpreted to include cases of discrimination against women, crimes of honour or the status of minority Christians in Jordan.
Article 13 allows authorities to refuse disclosure of information related to state secrets and prohibits civil servants from making public any classified document.
AAI says lack of access to information is the biggest challenge for Jordanian journalists, according to two recent surveys by the Higher Media Council in April. "Officials decline to answer journalists' questions over important issues, there is selectivity in forwarding invitations to press conferences and meetings, and journalists are prevented from entering certain government premises and refugee camps."
While Jordan boasts dozens of private newspapers and magazines, self-censorship among journalists is pervasive, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). "Journalists avoid criticism of the king, the royal family, the army, and the security services." State security agents use phone calls and warnings to pressure editors and reporters, and also recruit journalists to keep close tabs on their colleagues.
Visit these links:
- ARTICLE 19 Analysis of Press Law:
- AAI Report on Access to Information Law: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/70182/
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/attacks04/mideast04/jordan.html
- Human Rights Watch: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/11/22/jordan12080.htm
- Jordan Announces Media Reforms: http://www.internews.org/news/2005/20051014_gfmd.html