A drawback and a shame!

تم نشره في Mon 21 April / Apr 2014. 08:41 PM - آخر تعديل في Mon 21 April / Apr 2014. 08:41 PM

By Fahed Khitan

"Close newspapers... A drawback and a shame!": This was the “leading story” of Kuwaiti al-Watan newspaper on its website, after the issuance of a judicial decision to suspend its publication for two weeks, along with the Alam Al Yawm newspaper, after what the two newspapers published about recordings said to be on an attempted coup in Kuwait.

The decision was faced with a wide denouncing campaign, and was considered a dangerous precedent in a country like Kuwait that enjoyed a long history of press freedoms.

The suspension order was issued against the two Kuwaiti newspapers in conjunction with the release of the annual report by the Jordan Press Association (JPA) on the press and media freedoms in Jordan over the past year.

The lengthy and comprehensive report showed a marked decline in the level of press freedoms by about seven degrees, compared with 2012.

The report attributed the causes of the decline to the amendments of the Press and Publications Law (PPL), which resulted in the closure of some 300 Website, transfer of colleagues to the State Security Court (SSC), and the arrests over press issues — add to that the stoppage of one of the daily newspapers for a period of time before it was re- issued, after it terminated the services of dozens of journalists.

The justifications for the decline in the level of freedoms seem logical: The amendments of the PPL, for example, have had a negative impact, and created the impression, both internally and externally, that Jordan is a restricted press freedom. This was shown by reports by international organizations concerned with media freedom. You can also understand the adverse impact and damage to the reputation of freedoms in Jordan after referring reporters to the SSC on cases that are not within its competence. The JPA is counting on the amendments to the law of the SSC as a mean to stop, forever, trying journalists before it.

Press freedoms in Jordan, however, should also be looked at from other angles. The PPL amendment shutdown a large number of sites, granted, however, most of these sites belong to non-journalists that are almost blogs more than news sites. The important sites affected by the amendment and managed by journalists have returned and adjusted their positions with the new law, having exhausted legal ways to negate it constitutionally. As can be seen by following up on these sites, they have retained the same ceiling of freedom as they had before they were blocked, and even surpassed it without any legal action taken against them.

As for newspapers, the freedom limits are dependent upon the decisions of the editor-in-chief; which he/she can bump up according to what the law allows, or destroy willing, voluntarily or in response to pressure from the official bodies.

I have worked as an editor-in-chief for almost a year, and I do not remember that an official contacted protesting or threatening.

The transformations in the region reached Jordan and contributed to raising the ceiling of freedom in the kingdom at first — after the setbacks of the “Arab Spring”, and the consequent sense of the dangers of chaos and instability, the media freedom limits returned to settle at a moderate level.

By contrast, however, social networks and media sites are witnessing a high bar for freedom of expression; in many cases exceed the legal and ethical standards.

Press freedoms in Jordan are at a standstill, and should push them forward to keep up with the change of times. In conjunction with this, it is necessary to take the recommendation of the JPA’s report to establish a higher ombudsman bureau. It is the same requirement adopted by the media strategy taken up by previous governments, and now sleeps in a drawer.

@fahed_khitan

 

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition.

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