Abolishing the Jordanian Press Association

King Abdullah of Jordan should support a proposal that would strip the national press association of its power to prevent journalists from working, Human Rights Watch said today. A reform committee is scheduled to present a provision to abolish the law to the king.

Jordanian law should not require journalists to belong to a union, and moves to abolish the requirement are a step forward for freedom of the press, Human Rights Watch said today. The current law forbids any one from practicing as a journalist unless they are a member of the Jordanian Press Association. The press association describes its mission as protecting press freedom, but only within “the framework of its moral, national and patriotic responsibility.” Jordanian law currently gives the association the authority to punish or expel journalists who express opinions deemed unacceptable under the association’s rules. “Jordanian law subjects journalists to a double level of censorship,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Not only do they have to abide by laws limiting free speech, journalists must also abide by the whims of the press association.”

The Press Association Law of 1998 prohibits any news or media organization in the kingdom from employing a journalist who is not registered with the Jordanian Press Association. Journalists in media companies that are wholly or partially government-owned, including the dailies al-Ra’i and al-Dustur as well as the Petra News Agency, dominate the 650 members of the press association who elect its leadership.

The association has acted in the past to silence journalists of whose speech, writing or conduct it disapproved. [source]

Depending on the timing of this provision about to be presented to the King, in light of recent events (and their effect on the future), I am not certain if it will be met with approval. One thing is for sure though, this may be the first official litmus test of the effects of the Amman Bombings on reform, specifically here freedom of speech.

It cannot be denied that the reform King Abdullah has been talking about in the past 4 years when it comes to the Press has gone in a somewhat positive direction. I use the word "somewhat" here because unlike other reforms (such as economic and political) which I tend to favor the excersise of appropriate and steady measures, I am an advocate of radically altering the media in Jordan as we do need to have a society that can say what it wants and hold people accountable for their jobs. Such positive steps have been passing the new legislation to allow private broadcast media, a halt to the practice of practically randomly detaining journalists and reforming parts of the press and publications law. Although the later one on that list has been recently debatable. But it’s not enough.

The holy grail of problems seems to be the Press Associations. Without its membership you cannot be called a journalist. And upon becoming a member, you must adhere to its rules and views. I really feel sorry for Jordanian journalists, because a journalist just wants to write and Jordan is filled with so much to write about but it’s like everything is on mute. Corruption, policies, laws, you’re not allowed to talk about it, and hence nothing gets done about it. On top of government laws they are subjected to constant harassment from the Press Association as well as those random telephone calls from shadowy orwellian figures.

It should be noted that the King has recently promised to abolish the mandatory membership in the Press Association since the year 2000 (I believe). The timing has never been better to deliver up on that promise… Related: – You can read Haitham’s post on Press Freedom Report in the Arab World – Abu Ardvark had an interesting post back in March of this year on Pressure on the Press that highlights some of the difficulties journalists face in Jordan. – Jordan Ranked 96th out of 167 countries on the World Wide Press Freedom Index in 2005. Placing third in the Arab world after Kuwait (85th) and Qatar (90). In related news Jordan (thanfully) is one Arab country that does not make an appearance on RWB’s "The 15 enemies of the Internet", which includes: Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunis, Bahrain and Egypt


  • Well, Naseem. The last line is what really worries me most as a blogger. RSF don’t have anything to report about Internet restrictions in Jordan. But in light with the new Press Association law and how it will be translated into actions, GOD knows how bloggers will be positioned. Will we be considered as Journalists? From one side, I wish so, although 99% of us (bloggers) do not fulfill the journalists conditions according to the new law, on the other side, I don’t think I’ll be able to adhere to the new boundaries and restrictions.

    Anyway, might be too early. Let’s hope for the best 🙂

  • Haitham, I’m not sure if bloggers should actually be considered in the category of journalists. I think blogging is a form of communication that should be protected by freedom of speech but at the end of the day journalists and reporters are part of the media which has a much greater credibility internationally and socially. People hold accountable the media, they demand responsibility in reporting and objectivity (to an extent). These are not demands made of blogges.

    bloggers are more like people who say whatever they want to say but instead of appearing like the rambling old man walking down the street, they have a much larger audience.

    We are a different breed.

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