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
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
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.