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Police move to publish photos of suspects draws fire from activists

Jurist says law allows measure if authorities deem necessary

By Rana Husseini - Feb 07,2018 - Last updated at Feb 07,2018

AMMAN — Legal experts and activists on Wednesday criticised a recent decision by the Public Security Department (PSD) to publish photos of detained suspects, mainly in armed robberies, saying it violated their basic right to fair trials.

Meanwhile, officials and veteran lawyers said there are no articles in the laws that ban the publishing suspects' photos in the local media.

On Monday, the PSD said it was adopting a new method related to dangerous armed robberies and crimes by publishing photos of “dangerous suspects in the local media as a form of crime deterrent because their actions are dangerous and pose threats to public safety”.

“Individuals who cause danger to people or threaten their safety will be exposed so that citizens would know their identity and would stay away from them,” a senior police official told The Jordan Times.

Since the armed robbery of a local bank on June 22, the PSD published nine mugshots and names of suspects who were allegedly involved in dozens of armed robberies on banks, shops and pharmacies in Amman and Irbid.

“The PSD is not in the position to harm anyone but we are witnessing an increase in violent armed robberies so we decided to expose these suspects as a form of deterrence and to push individuals to think twice before carrying out dangerous acts,” the senior official source explained.

Former Jordan Bar Association President and Deputy Saleh Armouti criticised the recent step by the PSD saying “it was against the rights of suspects and a form of defamation and instigating the public’s opinion against them before trial”.

“What the PSD is doing violates the individuals’ basic human rights to a fair trial,” Armouti told The Jordan Times.

He added that “the terminology used by the PSD is also not correct”.

“The PSD is also using the term criminal instead of suspect and this is another form of discrimination against detained individuals for any form of crime,” Armouti protested.

Former president of the Jordan Society for Human Rights Activist Suleiman Sweiss agreed with Armouti saying that “the recent practice by the PSD is not correct because suspects are considered innocent until proven otherwise”.

“This is clearly stipulated in the international conventions. What if the individual whose photos are published in the media is found not guilty [by a court of law]? Who will compensate this individual for the psychological damage?” Sweiss, who has been an activist for over 30 years, told The Jordan Times. 

Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists President Nidal Mansour also criticised the recent step by the PSD.

“There are no clear criteria by the PSD regarding the use of photos,” Mansour said.

There are several dangerous incidents that occurred in Jordan over the years and “the police chose not to publish photos of suspects. It is not fair to [be selective and] pick and choose who to expose and who keep away from the public’s eye”, Mansour told The Jordan Times.

But Jordan Media Commission’s Director Mohammad Quteishat defended the PSD’s actions saying there are no provisions in the law that ban the publication of photos and names of suspects.

“The law works to ensure transparency by keeping the public and the media informed about certain important incidents, including allowing the publications of photos of suspects as long as they are over 18,” Quteishat told The Jordan Times.

Lawyer Khalid Khlaifat, who is specialised in media and electronic crimes, said there are provisions in the law that allow the release of photos of suspects if the authorities deem it was necessary.

Khlaifat pointed to Article 26 of the Copyrights Protection Law that stipulates that no one can publish photos in the media outlets without the written consent of concerned authorities, in case the act is deemed necessary.

 

“Individuals whose photos are published in media outlets after it was provided by the authorities and decide to take actions against media outlets that used the photos will not win the case in courts because of this exception in Article 26,” Khlaifat told The Jordan Times.

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