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Legislation on defamation calls for another look

Apr 06,2019 - Last updated at Apr 06,2019

It is certainly a serious business claiming that a nuclear radiation leakage has occurred, no matter where. Nuclear radiation has many implications, above all health related. People worry and take precautions whenever there are reports of a radiation problem, because they fear for their health. In other words, people panic when they hear reports, stories or rumours about a radiation crisis.

One cannot blame people for rushing into even hasty conclusions about radiation. The damage from unconfirmed stories about nuclear radiation could be, therefore, immeasurable and far reaching. Yet, overreaction can be counterproductive for both sides of the fence. So, what could be the best way to deal with “stories” about a radiation leakage allegedly happening in the country?

Most countries that have nuclear facilities, including nuclear plants to generate electricity, face accusations, often false, that their plants are improperly sealed against leakages. The rule of thumb is to rebut these “stories” or “rumours” in a convincing manner by authoritative and knowledgeable people who have the know-how on such problems. Any other measures could be counterproductive, because they tend to lend support to the story or rumour.

Overreacting is certainly wrong on either side of the equation. We must neither silence those who sound the alarm about radiation problems, nor leave their charges unanswered. That is the way countries across the board deal with such “stories”.

That said, the laws of the country need to be scrutinised further to reflect the need for transparency on important policy issues. The legislation on defamation, in particular, calls for another look. As is, people can be detained and sent to jail for simply expressing an opinion that others may feel offended by. Criminalising slander or defamation belongs to past eras and can no longer be the rule of law.

Submitting this issue to the Constitutional Court to render an opinion on existing laws governing defamation or slander would be in order. After all, that is what the court was created for in the first place.

As is, Jordan could be found by international human rights treaty bodies, especially the Human Rights Committee that monitors the faithful application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as a violator of international norms. The sooner this is done the better for all sides.

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