The two journalists, who work for the independent news website Jfranews, have been charged under Jordan’s Press and Publication Law and Cybercrime Law.
Cartoonist Emad Hajjaj is facing accusations of insulting religion and instigating religious strife over a cartoon depicting depicts Jesus on a cross denouncing the current Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, Patriarch Theophilos III.
The Jordanian government’s move against the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists is an attempt to stifle criticism and stigmatise independent NGOs, IPI says.
A Twitter spat and petty government abuse highlight the need for immediate reform in Jordan.
“Journalists, and ordinary people who rely on [Al Jazeera] for news and information, are paying the price for this regional diplomatic dispute,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour.
The sentence against Tayseer al-Najjar was related to Facebook posts in which he criticized Egypt, Israel, and Gulf countries.
The assassination of a controversial writer charged with “insulting Islam” over a cartoon he shared on Facebook hints at much deeper issues than a lone-wolf shooter.
Just this week, the Media Commission, the government agency responsible for enforcing press laws and regulations, issued a memo to news outlets stating that no news can be published about the king or the royal family unless it has been sent by the media unit of the royal court.
The reintroduction of potential prison terms for online journalists has gained attention in recent weeks after two journalists were detained in the wake of a government body’s ruling that the new law – Art. 11 of Jordan’s Cyber Crimes Law, which addresses defamation or insult in materials posted online – supersedes an explicit prohibition against imprisonment in Jordan’s Press and Publications Law.
“Labeling speech ‘terrorism’ merely for criticizing other countries doesn’t hide the reality that Jordan is punishing citizens who speak freely,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director.
Jordan’s State Security Court (SSC) detained Al Ghad columnist Jihad Muheisen over a Facebook post in which he criticised Jordan’s democratic process and said he would become a Shi’ite.
Ghazi Mrayat’s detention was in connection with a July 6 report he wrote for Al-Rai which cited a “well-informed source” as saying that Jordanian security services had foiled an Iranian-backed terror plot.
The licensing scheme was put in place under amendments to Jordan’s Press and Publications Law that also required news websites be headed by a journalist who has been a member of the Jordan Press Association (JPA), the country’s only professional press syndicate, for at least four years.
A Jordanian journalist was arrested on April 23, 2015, after publishing an article the week before that criticized Operation Decisive Storm, the bombing campaign by a Saudi-led coalition including Jordan against Houthi forces in Yemen.