For Immediate Release
March 28, 1997
Joel Campagna (212) 465-9344 x120
Judith Leynse (212) 465-9344 x105
CPJ Calls for King Hussein to Halt State Prosecution of JournalistsNew York, N.Y., March 28 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today urged Jordans King Hussein to take immediate action to prevent the ongoing arrest and prosecution of journalists who dare to report news and opinions critical of the government or Jordanian society.
In a letter to King Hussein sent in advance of his scheduled meeting in Washington Tuesday with President Bill Clinton, CPJ called on the Jordanian leader to cease immediately the arrest and criminal prosecution of journalists for the practice of their profession. The New York-based independent press freedom group asked for the repeal of articles of the 1993 Press and Publications Law that directly threaten press freedom and contravene international human rights standards for a free press. Under the restrictive, vaguely worded law any news that offends the King or the Royal Family, damages national unity or foments hatred becomes a criminal act, allowing state prosecutors to target journalists with libel suits, detention and fines.
These actions against press freedom call into question King Husseins international image as a tolerant leader, said CPJs executive director, William A. Orme, Jr. We urge him to direct all possible attention to ending the state prosecution of journalists.
The committees letter--the second in six months--called attention to the cases of seven journalists, two currently on trial, two appealing prison sentences handed down in January, and two arrested and another charged this year who await trial. They are:
- Nahed Hattar, freelancer, now on trial in State Security Court for insulting the King--a crime punishable with up to three years in prison--for articles published in several Jordanian newspapers in 1995-96 that opposed permanent settlement of Palestinian refugees in Jordan and criticized Jordans relations with Israel and other government policies.
- Abdullah Abou Rouman, freelancer, also on trial in State Security Court and charged with insulting the King, for unpublished articles found and confiscated during a police search of his office that contained criticism of the governments decision last August to remove state subsidies on bread.
- Abdullah Bani 'Issa, former editor of the now-defunct weekly newspaper Al-Hiwar, sentenced Jan. 16 to six months in prison and fined for publishing inaccurate news in an interview with the imprisoned spokesman for the outlawed Islamic Liberation Party who criticized the Jordan-Israel peace agreement. He has appealed the decision, reportedly the first prison sentence for a publications offense in Jordans history.
- Nael Saleh, editor of the weekly newspaper Al-Haqiqah, sentenced Jan. 23 to nine months in prison and fined for spreading false news and publishing pornographic material in articles reporting on prostitution in Amman. He has appealed the decision.
- Omar al-Nadi and Yousef Gheyshan, editors of the satiric weekly Abed Rabbo, were arrested Jan. 24 and Jan. 28, respectively, by order of a state prosecutor for publishing an article calling a member of parliament a hypocrite and a cartoon depicting a government official as corrupt. Also charged in the case is Abed Rabbo journalist Abdel Hadi Raji Majali. The three await trial and the prospect of prison and fines.
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