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Five journalists given three-month prison sentences over critical articles

(AAI/IFEX) - On 16 March 2008, in two separate legal cases, five journalists were sentenced to three months in prison by the Court of First Instance in Amman for alleged violations of the penal code.

In the first case, two of Jordan's main daily newspapers, "Ad-Dustour" and "Al Arab Al Yawm", were found in contempt of the judiciary for publishing a news item about a lawsuit filed by a Jordanian against a judges' decision to deprive him of his citizenship. In 2006, the two newspapers carried a news item about this citizen's filing of a motion with the Higher Judicial Council against the judges of the Higher Court of Justice, who had upheld a decision by the Civil Status and Passport Department depriving the plaintiff of his citizenship. The two newspapers were sued, as were their chief editors, as the newspapers' representatives: Usama Sharif of "Ad-Dustour" and Taher Al Udwan of "Al Arab Al Yawm". The three-month sentence also applied to two reporters with the dailies: Fayez al Lawzi and Sahar Al Qasem, of "Ad-Dustour" and "Al Arab Al Yawm", respectively.

The second case pertained to an article in the leading daily "Al Ra'i" that had been written by satirical writer Abdul Hadi Raji Majali about the Higher Media Council. The article was considered slanderous by the court, according to Penal Code provisions, and Majali was sentenced also to three months in prison.

The journalists said they would appeal the verdicts. Usama Sharif told AAI that the feelings of dismay in journalistic circles and campaigning might help in the revision of laws that allow for the imprisonment of journalists. He said that they would automatically appeal.

The three-month sentence is replaceable by a fine, according to the law. "However, it's a matter of principle," Sharif said. "We should revise our laws."

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