CPJ Concerned Over Jordan's Draft Press Law
Delegation Meets with Jordanian Ambassador
to Deliver Letter to King Hussein

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Washington, D.C., June 17, 1998--A high-level delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) met with Jordan's Ambassador Marwan Muasher today to express its deep concern over the government's restrictive draft press legislation sent to parliament this week.

"If parliament passes this bill, it would be a tremendous setback to a growing press that has enjoyed a relative degree of freedom," said Peter Arnett of CNN, a member of CPJ's board of directors, at today's meeting.

Arnett was joined by CPJ board member David Marash of ABC's "Nightline," CPJ director-designate Ann K. Cooper, and Middle East program coordinator Joel Campagna. They presented Ambassador Muasher a letter to King Hussein urging the King to guarantee that internationally recognized standards for a free press are upheld in Jordan.

The draft legislation "poses a grave threat to press freedom in Jordan," said CPJ in its letter. The bill is similar to the temporary press amendments that were enacted by the government in May 1997, and many of its provisions exceed the amendments in their severity.

The temporary amendments imposed sweeping restrictions on the press and led to the closing in November of a dozen independent weekly newspapers. Roundly denounced as draconian by CPJ, Jordanian journalists, and human rights groups, the amendments were declared unconstitutional in January by Jordan's High Court.

The draft legislation introduced this week would expand current censorship provisions and increase fines for violations, impose onerously high capital requirements for media enterprises, and regulate professional qualifications for editors. The bill would also give the courts the power to shut down publications following the printing of information deemed harmful to national security.

"We hope for a vigorous public debate over this bill that will underscore the virtues of press freedom and lead to liberal press legislation," said Marash.

In the letter to King Hussein, CPJ asked that government regulation of the press not limit dissemination of critical reporting and opposition political viewpoints and urged that journalists be protected from criminal prosecution in retaliation for news or opinion articles. Ambassador Muasher said that the letter would be brought to the King's attention. "We welcome the committee's input," the ambassador told the CPJ delegation.