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CAPSULE REPORT: Despite advances on access to information and press freedom, government's negative attitude towards the media has not changed, says AAI

(AAI/IFEX) - The following is a 6 December 2008 AAI statement:

Fear of freedoms
King insists on freedoms, government resists

Fear might be holding Jordanians from exploiting the margin of freedoms they have. On several occasions, the Jordanian regime, in the words of King Abdullah, reiterated the need for a free press. Jordan promulgated the only law in the Arab countries that allows access to information. However, journalists are still repressed, laws and regulations have not changed and the executive authority has not changed its negative attitude towards the media.

In the summer of this year, the government ran an advertisement in state-owned newspapers on several occasions informing and reminding the public of the right to access information. Under the Access to Information Law, any person has the right to acquire information, and, if denied, can complain to the Information Council. There were no registered complaints as government reports showed, but this is mainly because no one applied for any information to start with.

In November, King Abdullah took the initiative and stated emphatically that "there will be no detention of any journalist for carrying out his/her duty." If people have complaints, they can "resort to courts of law in case they feel their rights were violated by any media organization," the king said.

However, the executive authority does not seem to be on the same wavelength as the king.

- In the past few months, several news websites criticized the Minister of State for Information Affairs, Nasser Joudeh, and accused him of pursuing so-called discriminatory policies between the loyal press and the private press.

- The Jordan Press Association (JPA) is studying plans to enforce restrictions on independent news websites that have become popular in Jordan in the past few years. According to state-run news agency Petra, and the news website Khaberni.com ( http://www.khaberni.com ), the Association is planning to incorporate a provision in the Jordan Press Law that imposes mandatory membership in the JPA on any person running a news website.

- A four-month ban on the Alweibdeh monthly magazine was only lifted on December 4 following a prime ministerial decision to grant the magazine its licence. The ban was imposed by the Press and Publication Department (PPD) in defiance of a ruling issued by the Bureau of Law Interpretation on October 22. The PPD earlier claimed that the magazine's licence was not the correct one and informed the magazine administration that a new licence is needed to qualify for printing and distribution. Alweibdeh's chief editor Basem Sakijha met with Prime Minister Nader Dahabi who promised to resolve the matter. Sakijha is currently publishing the magazine online at http://www.jorday.net and will resume publishing after the Eid holidays.

- Journalist Hisham Awartani, of al Diyar newspaper, complained to the JPA that he was receiving serious threats on his life following a critical article he wrote about the Zarqa mayor.

- The Amman Municipality decided to block 600 websites on its inside network. The decision includes all Jordanian news websites and newspapers. The Municipality said the move was taken due to the employees' dereliction and wasting time online. However, news website owners criticized the decision and said they were targeted by it following their publication of critical news items concerning the Municipality and the Amman Mayor, according to http://sarayanews.com.

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