An independent survey finds 41% of Jordanian journalists believe media freedoms are declining.
By Iqbal Tamimi
The results of the poll that was announced Monday on the status of media freedoms in Jordan for the year 2010 found that 41.1% of Jordanian journalists believe that media freedoms in Jordan have declined compared to 3.2% who described media freedoms as excellent.
The independent research body, The Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists has conducted the survey and submitted the results of the research within its annual report that was issued on the World Press Freedom Day which falls on the third of May, describing press freedoms in Jordan as it ‘standing on the edge’.
The poll which reflects the opinions of 505 journalists from both genders in Jordan shows that 83% of them believe that the government has increased its intervention in the media. The findings of the poll revealed as well that 266 of the journalists surveyed said that they were subjected to government interference and harassment. This figure translates to 53% of the total number of journalists, making this year’s figures higher than those of the previous year 2009, which amounted then to 39%. The report disclosed as well, that the centre has received 153 complaints last year from journalists who reported that their rights were breached or abused.
Last month has witnessed a number of journalist’s activities in Jordan, demanding an end of government and security services intervention in their journalistic work. A couple of months ago as well, hundreds of journalists organised a sit-in last March, demanding an end to security interventions in the press.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) the France-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press has published a report last February claiming that the press in Jordan is suffering government interventions and the union of journalists is not running independently and is subjected to government interventions.
The report revealed that 94% of the media professionals in Jordan practice self-censorship and 94% avoid writing about the armed forces, while 90% avoid writing about the judiciary system and 87% avoid writing about the security services whereas 85% do not dare criticize the leaders of the tribes.
According to the results of the survey, 42% of the journalists in Jordan believe that the the legislations enforce restrictions on the freedom of the press. The journalists in Jordan complain of more than twenty legislations which constitute restrictions on freedom of information, in spite of the amendments introduced on the Press and Publications Law by the government last year, under which, it has managed to stop trying journalists before the State Security Court and instead transfer their cases to be trialed before a special chamber in a preliminary court.
However, according to Article 3 of the Code of the State Security Court trial, it is still possible to try journalists before the State Security Court. And it is still possible to arrest journalists for publication cases according to Article No. 114 of the Code of Criminal Procedures, despite the amendment that were made to the law of publications in 2007 that is supposed to have cancelled the law that allows arresting journalists.
The President of the Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ) in Jordan, Nidal Mansour, wrote in the introduction of the report”the media landscape for 2010 has become darker than it used to be. Feelings of frustration are preoccupying the journalists minds for they feel that the government interventions are not easing, and the withdrawal of the direct security intervention from the scene has not stopped or ended its role, contrary to that, it has been replaced by more rigid policies that allow media institutions to practice and enforce preceding censorship to prevent the flow of information and stop the truth from reaching the people. “
Mansour added, “Nothing has changed. On the contrary, there are clear signs that violations against journalists have increased, even though, journalists often do not speak out about such violations and prefer to remain silent. The journalist’s attitude towards what is going on, does not call for optimism, they (the journalists) believe that the freedoms of the press are deteriorating, and the legislations are imposing further restrictions, while access to information is an absent right and the threats of arrest, detention and deprivation of freedom of expression still exist, besides blocking and filtering websites which is a new entry to the the vocabulary of suppression of press freedoms. “
Mansour continued: “Jordan’s image in international reports has not improved in the field of freedom of the press. In a report by Freedom House, Jordan has appeared as a none free country, and in a report by Reporters Without Borders, Jordan ranked 112 regarding freedom of the press. In our daily monitoring of freedoms of the press, we found the state and its security establishment have turned their backs to their commitments to protect an independent press. These commitments must translate into positive obligations contributing to the maintenance of these rights that Jordan has ratified under treaties and conventions, but did not maintain”.