27 March 2007
Press law provision for imprisonment of journalists scrapped, replaced with exorbitant fines; other laws still allow for prison terms
(AAI/IFEX) - After four years of bickering, the Jordanian lower house of Parliament voted on 21 March 2007 to scrap the provision for the imprisonment of journalists in the Press Law, following the Upper House's insistence that the relevant article 38 be cancelled.
The Lower House persistently rejected arguments and lobbying all through 2006 aimed at cancelling the controversial article and voted obstinately in favor of maintaining the penalty of imprisonment for journalists. However, in mid-March the Upper House, otherwise known as the king's council, returned the law to the Lower House, recommending that article 38 be cancelled. The latter automatically accepted the amendment, as it implies it is the king's wish.
King Abdullah II had met with journalists earlier, following his visits abroad, to brief and update politicians and journalists on the kingdom's policies. Some daring journalists brought up the press law controversy and pleaded with the king to reject the law.
Parliament, which finally cancelled the imprisonment provision, replaced it with exaggerated fines reaching 28,000 Jordanian Dinars (approx. US$40,000) for defamation, libel, insult to religious beliefs, or publishing material that fuels sectarianism or racism.
The cancellation of the article is certainly a victory for the press corps in Jordan. However, the fact remains that other laws allow for detention and imprisonment of journalists and writers, including the Penal Code and the State Security Court Law.
Arab Archives Institute