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Media watchdog report finds self-censorship prevalent

Gov’t using Cybercrime Law to tighten noose on journalists — CDFJ

By Rana Husseini - Aug 05,2019 - Last updated at Aug 05,2019

AMMAN — Over 90 per cent of media practitioners in Jordan exercise self-censorship while only 15 per cent label media freedom as "good", according to the Media Freedom Status in 2018 report by the Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ).

Launched on Monday, the 17th annual CDFJ report titled "Suspended Freedom" indicated that there were a total of 68 violations against 18 male and female journalists, in addition to one media institution in Jordan in 2018.

"The most prominent cases were the harassment of journalists and preventing them from covering popular protests," said Nidal Mansour, president of the CDFJ, during a press conference. 

Meanwhile, none of the 100 surveyed journalists described the situation of media freedoms in Jordan as "excellent", while 34 described it as acceptable.

The legislation was another deterring factor for media freedoms in Jordan with 76 of the surveyed saying that the media laws constitute a restriction on media freedom, while  61 per cent believe that the government is not serious about ensuring that the media is free, according to Mansour.

"Ninety-two of the 100 surveyed journalists stated that the government will use the Cybercrime Law related to hate speech to tighten media freedoms in Jordan," according to Mansour.  

Meanwhile, around 40 per cent of the surveyed indicated that the situation of media freedom remained the same in Jordan, while 23 per cent said that it went backwards to a large extent, Mansour added.

Mansour stressed that economic hardships that many journalists are facing was another factor that is working against media freedoms in Jordan because it is "forcing them to accept the status quo so that they would not get into trouble with the authorities and eventually lose their jobs".

This, Mansour added, forces journalists to focus on just meeting their day to day life expenses to avoid any clashes with the authorities, which eventually "affects their performance and pushes them to resort to self-censorship and 92 of the surveyed confirmed this fact."

The report listed several recommendations including urging the government to integrate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly with regard to the right to freedom of expression in its local laws and legislation.

Other recommendations focused on the need to review the Press and Publication's Law to ensure full freedom of expression rights and to amend any laws that hinder freedom of expression and information and at the same time to amend Article 11 of the Cybercrime Law to narrow the definition of hate speech.

The report also called for ensuring a safe and favourable environment for journalists and media personnel, as well as freedom of the media and a space for civil society free from interference, threats and intimidation.  

The recommendations also called for establishing a committee of independent experts to consider amendments to legislation and institutions related to information.

The need to halt journalists and editors' arrest was another recommendation, while at the same time respecting the right of journalists to have freedom of expression.

Mansour concluded by saying that the media freedom in Jordan has "not progressed remarkably and in line with the rate of decline in violations based on the opinions of journalists in the opinion poll we did". 

"The only option we have is to go forward in promoting media freedom, to ensure a flow of credible information, to contribute in building a "public media" that reflects the priorities of society and to hold anyone, who violates the rights of journalists, accountable so the impunity stops," Mansour stressed.

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