Middle East

Jordan urged to halt pursuit of journalists over security

Jordanian journalists hold photos of their colleague Ghazi Mrayat as they gather outside the State Security Court calling for his release, in Amman, Jordan, Saturday, July 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

AMMAN: Human Rights Watch urged Jordan Wednesday to stop its pursuit of journalists and to revise its anti-terrorism law, saying the measures were restricting freedom of expression.

"Jordanian authorities are curtailing media freedom by detaining and bringing charges against journalists under broad and vague provisions of the country's terrorism law," a statement said.

In one case, journalist Ghazi al-Marayat, of government-controlled Al-Rai newspaper, was held for four days for allegedly violating a gag order in a report on a foiled terror plot, despite the daily not having been informed of the gag order at the time of publishing.

"Jordan's concerns over its security situation shouldn't translate into branding journalists and writers as security threats merely for doing their jobs or expressing themselves peacefully," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

"Jordan should stop prosecuting journalists and revise its terrorism law to remove vague language used to limit peaceful speech."

Jordan appeared to be detaining journalists in violation of Article 42 of its press and publications law, which prohibits pretrial detention for media workers for "expressing opinion by word, writing or other means of expression," the watchdog said.

In another case, HRW said freelance columnist Jamal Ayoub had been jailed since April 22 for writing an article that criticises Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign in Yemen.

It cited Ayoub's lawyer as saying he was on trial for "disturbing (Jordan's) relations with a foreign state" under the terrorism law, and that the court rejected numerous bail requests

Other journalists detained this year included Seif al-Obeidat and the Saraya News website publisher Hashem al-Khalidi after the site reported on negotiations between Amman and ISIS over the release of a captured Jordanian pilot who was later killed.

Jordan has been sharply criticized for the measures by human rights groups, as well as from journalists, activists and the main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, who see it as an attempt to impose censorship.

 

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