In Transition: Jordan’s Media Between Freedom and Regulation: Media System of Jordan

Support to Media in Jordan
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Apart from the right for the Parliament to nominate the Prime Minister, another important reform was passed. The government has changed the electoral law before every election, and this is the most notable reform undertaken since This electoral procedure is closer to the one in , and the stated goal of the reforms was to empower parties, instead of tribal leaders. However, The Muslim Brotherhood remained unsatisfied, and boycotted the elections.

They returned in when a new electoral law was drawn up, which they thought would facilitate party participation in the elections. The most recent procedure involved a district based system, where the ballotters first voted for a list in the district, and then for a candidate in that list. As consequence, people in the same list were competing among each other, as not every candidate would make it to the lower-house. The representation of political parties in the lower-house has also continued to diminish, and the vast majority of members of parliament have been independent.

Some members of the organised opposition ridicule the lower-house as simply being a glorified tribal assembly. The opposition itself is divided between left, right, and nationalist currents, and in , after 70 years of unity, the MB in Jordan split into two distinct groups: A powerful legitimate political opposition has thus far not materialized in Jordan and their division is beneficiary and probably facilitated by the Monarchy.

Neither does the ruler take much responsibility for the failed process. However, as the most powerful person in the country, the King has total control of the armed forces and could interfere to further the democratic process. Abdullah II has, on paper, less power than the majority of Arab rulers. Legislation in Jordan must pass with both chambers of parliament: Members of Parliament in the lower house are elected by the population, but organised opposition is weak for the reasons cited before.

If legislation passes in the lower house, it moves up to the Senate, where each of the 65 members are appointed by the King. Legislation is put forward by the Prime Minister, who since is nominated by the parliament, but is appointed and dismissed by Abdullah II. Both native Jordanians, and loyal Palestinian Jordanians are granted the position to please both spectrums of the population.

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In the lower-house, there is an overrepresentation in quotas for minorities who usually tend to support the Hashemites, such as Christians 9 seats out of , Chechens and Circassians 3 seats. So far, all PMs have had Islam as their religion. Out of the ten different Prime Ministers, nine have been educated partially in the United States as has the King or in the United Kingdom. Loyalty to the Monarch is the most important factor for the Prime Ministry. Many of the departed Prime Ministers continue to occupy key positions in cabinets or in the Royal Hashemite Court which acts as a link between the government and the King.

In Jordan, as in any pseudo-democracy or dictatorship, it is also the government which receives most of the blame at times of hardship, and not the King. Like in Morocco, the opposition understands that insulting the King comes with repercussions. As the Monarch has the power to dissolve the Parliament, he can pretend to please those who demonstrate, and gain time for reforms to have an effect. During the Arab Spring protests in four different Prime Ministers took office in less than two years, and the governments were blamed for the problems both by Abdullah II and by the demonstrators.

Insulting the King or another foreign leader is punishable by the law. The former is more or less widespread in the region; however, the latter shows how important it is for Jordan to be in good terms with its neighbours, even at the expense of freedom of speech and by punishing its own citizens. As a consequence, journalists must engage in careful self-censorship to continue their work. Similar was the case with the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Zaki Bani Arshid in , because he wrote an article criticizing the United Arab Emirate after they included the MB in a terrorist list.

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The Jordanian government, instead of opting to protect its already fragile political party, chose to imprison one of its leaders. The absurdity of the way in which the Jordanian elite operates, paves the way for the continuation of the status quo where democracy cannot evolve. The new media environment demands such a change.

As Palestinian journalist Kuttab notes: Jordanians, the majority of whom are under 25, are able to quickly overcome direct website blockades by electronically bypassing them, but the government does not trust them to be mature enough to decipher the content of the news. To move forward in this new media environment, policymakers should consider revising laws around issues of criminal defamation, protecting public order, and the licensing of journalists. Retrieved October 7, , from http: Journal of Media Economics, 26 1 , 4— Media Development in Bangladesh.

Mass Media and Political Accountability. Retrieved March 21, , from http: Broadcasting, Voice, and Accountability: France bans Al Manar TV channel. The New York Times. Jordanian authorities raid station, arrest staff. Retrieved January 8, , from http: Media ownership and prosperity.

Between the Newsroom and the Classroom. International Communication Gazette, 69 1 , Islamists protest after King dissolves parliament. State Security Court releases detained journalists on bail. Transitioning to Free Speech: Cardozo Law Review, 6 , Digital Media and the Arab Spring. Journalists Jailed for Website Posting. Beyond the Four Theories of the Press: From Vanguard to Vanquished? The Tabloid Press in Jordan. Political Communication, 19 2 , — Media Freedom, Political Knowledge, and Participation.

The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22 2. Licensing of media workers. Retrieved March 25, , from http: Four theories of the press in hindsight: Reflections on a popular model. International mechanisms for promoting freedom of expression joint declaration. Organization of American States. Retrieved April 18, , from http: Dangerous precedent seen in decision to put Al-Manar on list of terror organisations - Reporters Without Borders. Political Freedom, Economic Liberty, and Prosperity.

Journal of Democracy, 14 3 , 75— Newspapers, Radio, and Television in Arab Politics. Parliament Approves Law on Online Publications. Jordanian authorities block more than Internet news websites. The Idea of Justice Reprint. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Four Theories of the Press: University of Illinois Press. The Pulitzer Prize Winners.

Retrieved September 6, , from http: Observations From Tahrir Square. Journal of Communication, 62 2 , — Social Media and the Activist Toolkit: Related article at Pubmed , Scholar Google. As the Arab region erupted in protests in early , the king of Jordan appeared to see the writing on the wall. The paper examines the issues surrounding the press freedom environment in Jordan, particularly in the wake of the Arab Spring.

The benefits of a free press—particularly in democracies—are widely embraced in both academic research and conventional wisdom. After an analysis of recent free speech court cases, the author concluded:. Given this literature review, the authors aim to answer two research questions from their analysis:. This paper analyzes the changes in press freedom and social media discourse that have occurred since The analysis of free speech restrictions since finds several key actions that will be described below.

In April , the security forces arrested two journalists after they published a report alleging corruption in the royal court. Observers noted that the arrests did not require convictions to ensure that, in the future, journalists would avoid reporting on. Daoud Kuttab, a Jordanian journalist and founder of the online outlet AmmanNet, disagreed:.

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In April , the Jordanian parliament approved an update to the anti- terrorism law that gave broad powers to the security forces to enforce restrictions on the press. Critics noted that such language could be used to charge journalists who reported on terrorist activities or revealed information embarrassing to the government. For the interview portion of this analysis, two prominent Jordanian journalists were selected and both agreed that press freedom had declined since The Jordanian protests began in the wake of unrest in Tunisia and Egypt. Starting in January , several thousand Jordanians staged weekly demonstrations and marches in Amman the capital and other cities to protest government corruption, rising prices, poverty, and high unemployment.

The king told the new prime minister to "take quick, concrete, and practical steps to launch a genuine political reform process," "to strengthen democracy," and to provide Jordanians with the "dignified life they deserve.

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The constitution concentrates executive and legislative authority in the king. Jordan has a bicameral legislature , the National Assembly, consisting of an upper house, the Assembly of Senators , appointed by the king and an elected lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. The members of both houses hold office for four-year terms. There are 60 seats in the Senate and in the Chamber of Deputies.

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In the Chamber of Deputies 12 seats are reserved for women, 9 seats for Christian candidates, 9 for Bedouin candidates, and 3 for Jordanians of Chechen or Circassian descent. The king may dissolve the National Assembly, forcing new elections. King Abdullah did that on 24 November , and the government ruled by decree through most of , until new elections were held in November.

Parliamentary elections have been deemed credible by international observers. The king signs and executes all laws, but his veto power can be overridden by two-thirds vote of the National Assembly. The judicial branch is completely independent. Security forces report to civilian authorities. The law does not provide citizens the right to change their monarch or government. The king appoints and dismisses the prime minister, cabinet, the Assembly of Senators, and judges, may dissolve parliament, commands the military, and directs major public policy initiatives.

The cabinet, based on the prime minister's recommendation, appoints the mayors of Amman, Wadi Musa Petra , and Aqaba, a special economic zone. The mayors of the other 93 municipalities are elected.

Opposition movements are legal in Jordan and are involved in Jordan's political life. The government licenses political parties and other associations and prohibits membership in unlicensed political parties. There are over 50 licensed political parties, but only a few have a substantial impact at the national level.

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The Support to Media in Jordan (STMJO) project aims to help Jordan's efforts in In the second phase, together with partners and with financial support from the system to ensure equitable allocation of broadcast licences to public service, national stakeholders, the Media Commission (regulatory body) on freedom of. Online media in Jordan was generally regarded to be exempt from the laws regulating Jordan's approach to Internet media regulation contrasts sharply with Under Finland's regulation system, a court may order a content provider, ISP or other . transitional democracies, as well as in countries spanning a wide range of.

Jordan ranked sixth among the 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, and 50th out of countries worldwide in the Corruption Perceptions Index CPI issued by Transparency International , where 1st is the least corrupt. The Jordanian constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the government does not fully respect these rights in practice.

Jordan's score was 37 on a scale from 0 most free to least free. The law provides for up to three years' imprisonment for insulting the king, slandering the government or foreign leaders, offending religious beliefs, or stirring sectarian strife and sedition. In practice citizens are generally able to criticize the government, although they reportedly exercise caution in regard to the king, the royal family, the General Intelligence Directorate GID , and other sensitive topics such as religion. The government continues to enforce bans on the publication of selected books for religious, moral, and political reasons, some foreign films are edited prior to release, and the media is directly and indirectly censored.

Authorities monitor and censor printing presses and edit articles deemed offensive before they can be printed. Journalists claim the government uses informants in newsrooms and that GID officials monitor reporting. Editors reportedly receive telephone calls from security officials instructing them how to cover events or to refrain from covering certain topics or events. Government officials also reportedly bribe journalists to influence their reporting. Media observers note that when covering controversial subjects, government-owned Jordan Radio and Television and Jordan News Agency reported only the government's position.

According to a Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists survey, 95 percent of journalists polled exercised self-censorship. The survey also reported that 70 percent of journalists thought the government used "soft containment", such as financial support, scholarships for relatives, and special invitations, to control the media at a medium to high degree. Ninety-four percent said they avoid writing about or broadcasting military matters, and 83 percent said they avoid discussing religious topics. There were several cases in which the government prohibited journalists from reporting on high-profile court cases.

For example, a State Security Court attorney general prohibited the press from reporting or commenting on the case of the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company expansion project without his personal approval, purportedly to allow the judicial authorities to work "calmly" on the case. The clash between Jordanian media and the Lower House has been a chronic struggle for decades. The state of press freedom in Jordan is very fickle, at one point Jordan had one of the most vocal media in the Arab World, but a series of laws passed by Parliament greatly restricted press freedom.

The Jordanian media has been very vocal expressing its opposition towards Parliament often leading to clashes. In October , the government amended the Penal Code and introduced a restrictive Press Law that effectively revokes the relative freedom of the press guaranteed by the Press Law and punishes any act that can be deemed critical of the Jordanian government. Anyone who "slanders" the King or other members of the royal family can be sentenced to three years imprisonment.

The introduction of these new laws has led to the detention and imprisonment of several journalists and leaders of peaceful associations.

Human rights in Jordan

In May , two journalists involved in reprinting three of the 12 Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons were issued a two-month prison sentence. The two Jordanian editors responsible were sacked and pressured to issue a public apology. In the beginning of , King Abdullah II issued a royal decree forbidding jailing of journalists in Jordan, an act praised by human rights groups in Jordan and around the world.

According to Human Rights Watch , Jordanian authorities has used counterterrorism laws to prosecute activists, dissidents , journalists and Islamic preachers for speech offenses, the authorities depends largely on counterterrorism law that extended the definition of terrorism to include acts such as disturbing Jordan's relations with a foreign state. In June, Eyad Qunaibi, an Islamic preacher, was arrested after posting Facebook comments criticizing the liberal lifestyle of a segment of the Jordanian society.

Internet censorship in Jordan is relatively light, with filtering selectively applied to only a small number of sites. However, media laws and regulations encourage some measure of self-censorship in cyberspace, and citizens have reportedly been questioned and arrested for Web content they have authored.


Prosecutors routinely request and are granted extensions that increase the period to file formal charges to as long as six months for a felony and two months for a misdemeanor. Retrieved 21 December Although recently there have been far-reaching reforms of the laws and regulations in the country, abuses against basic rights such as freedom of expression persisted. A closer look into party politics, election procedures, freedom of speech and the power of the King is necessary to understand the state of democracy in Jordan. Jordan is a destination for women and men subjected to trafficking in persons , specifically conditions of forced labor and, to a lesser extent, forced prostitution.

Internet censorship in Jordan is mainly focused on political issues that might be seen as a threat to national security due to the nation's close proximity to regional hotspots of Israel , Iraq, Lebanon , and the Palestinian territories. In , however, the Press and Publications Department initiated a ban on Jordanian news websites which had not registered and been licensed by government agency. The order issued to Telecommunication Regulatory Commission contained a list of over websites to be blocked. The mandatory registration of websites was a part of amendments made to the Press and Publications Law in September The amendments included articles that would hold online news sites accountable for the comments left by their readers, prohibiting them from publishing comments that are deemed "irrelevant" or "unrelated" to the article.

The restriction caused several prominent sites to turn off their comments sections. Online news sites are required to archive all comments for at least six months. According to US Department of State's Human Rights Reports in legal and societal discrimination and harassment remained a problem for religious minorities, and religious converts.

The Jordanian Constitution provides for the freedom to practice one's religion in accordance with the customs in the Kingdom, unless they violate public order or morality. Jordan's state religion is Islam. The Government bans conversion from Islam and efforts to proselytize Muslims. While proselytizing to Christians may not be banned, it is equally not favored and very hampered with bureaucratic red tape that renders it near impossible to legalize.