AMMAN — The overwhelming majority of Jordanian journalists still practise self-censorship when reporting on local affairs and believe that authorities repeatedly interfere with the media, a survey has found.

According to a report released by the Centre for Defending the Freedom (CDFJ) on Monday, a total of 86 per cent of journalists said that they practise self-censorship, which is a 1 per cent down from 2011’s figure of 87 per cent.

Meanwhile, 84 per cent of those questioned cited authorities’ attempts to influence the work of media outlets.

The report, titled “Repression in the name of the law”, covered the state of press freedom in 2012, relying on the findings of a questionnaire distributed to 508 journalists working in public and private media institutions, including print, audio visual and online media outlets.

“It was believed that the so-called Arab Spring might boost freedom of the media, but despite the minor difference it made, the revolts did not have the widespread effect we were hoping for,” commented CDFJ President Nidal Mansour in a phone interview on Monday.

He added that the authorities “treated the media as their opponents and continuously interfered with them, violating the freedom of journalists and preventing them from reporting freely and independently”.

The survey found that 80.9 per cent of respondents said that the Arab Spring has contributed to enhancing press freedom, with 83.9 per cent saying that it ensured them better access to information. Additionally, 87.6 per cent said the protests in the streets helped break the fear barrier among journalists with regards to reporting issues previously considered taboo.

He added that although the presence of authorities is still being felt in the media, the number of “violations” in 2012 was less than in 2011. “We only had 10 cases of journalists who were physically assaulted, while other types of violations were detected, such as verbal threats, arrests and other non-physical assaults,” Mansour noted.

The report attributes the drop in attacks to the declining frequency of protests and demonstrations, compared with 2011, when the Arab Spring was in full flow.

“This reduced friction between reporters and security personnel…security agencies have learned from their mistakes and become more self-restrained when dealing with journalists covering demonstrations,” Mansour added.

Meanwhile, three topics were considered red lines avoided by journalists according to the report: the Armed Forces, religious issues and the security services.

With regards to the recently amended Press and Publications Law, the report said the introduced amendments further suffocated the online media sector.

Of those surveyed, 45.3 per cent rejected prior licensing requirements stipulated in the amendments to the law, considering it a restriction on freedom of the media, while only 21.9 per cent saw it as a positive development as far as freedom of the press is concerned.

Meanwhile, 54 per cent of the journalists objected to blocking unlicensed websites under the provisions of the said law and considered that as a restriction on freedoms, while 16.5 per cent believed that it was a positive step.

“The most obvious finding was that 60 per cent of journalists rejected the article in the law stipulating that comments on websites are part of journalistic material, while only 15 per cent supported it,” said the report.