The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press; however, the government did not respect these rights.
Freedom of Speech: The law permits punishment of up to three years’ imprisonment for insulting the king, slandering the government or foreign leaders, offending religious beliefs, or stirring sectarian strife and sedition. During the year the government restricted the ability of individuals to criticize the government by arresting a number of activists for political expression. The government monitored political meetings, speech on university campuses, and sermons in mosques and churches. Laws against slander of public officials were used to restrict public discussion.
On August 28, news sources reported that authorities charged two juveniles, ages 16 and 17, with lese majeste for statements they made during celebrations of the ceasefire in Gaza. Authorities released them after several days of detention and dropped charges against them.
In September 2013 authorities arrested Amjad Ma’ala and Nidal Fara’neh, the publisher and chief editor of Jafra News, respectively, on charges of exposing the kingdom to the risk of hostile acts and undermining relations with a foreign country for publishing a video titled Son, about the son of a former Qatari emir in a sex scandal with an Israeli woman. Authorities released the two journalists on bail, but the charges against them remained pending.
All public-opinion polls and survey research require authorization from the Bureau of Statistics, although the law is not enforced. NGOs stated that the measure could be enforced, even retroactively and called for the government to rescind it.
Press Freedoms: Independent print media existed, including several major daily newspapers; however, such publications must obtain licenses from the state to operate. The independent print and broadcast media largely operated with limited restriction, and media observers reported government pressure to refrain from criticizing the royal family, discussing the GID, or using language deemed offensive to religion, including the threat of large fines and prison sentences for slander of government officials. The government influenced news reporting and commentary through political pressure on editors and control over important editorial positions in government-affiliated media. Journalists of government-affiliated and independent media reported that security officials attempted to influence reporting and place articles favorable to the government through bribes, threats, and political pressure.
In 2013 the NCHR documented physical and verbal assaults against journalists. Authorities arrested or temporarily detained some journalists, and some received threats from government officials or private individuals. The 2013 NCHR report noted that security agencies and individuals exposed journalists to physical assaults and confiscation of cameras and that authorities arrested and temporarily detained some journalists.
The government has a majority of seats on the board for the leading semiofficial daily newspaper, Al-Rai, and a share of board seats for Ad-Dustour daily newspaper. According to press freedom advocates, the GID’s Media Department must approve editors in chief of progovernment newspapers.
The law states that the Office of the Prime Ministry has the authority to reject a broadcast license without a stated reason, based on the recommendation of the director of the governmental Audiovisual Commission.
On June 4, security forces entered the headquarters of Al-Abbasiya, an Iraqi television station based in the country, and arrested the owner and 12 staff members. Authorities detained the owner and staff members for 15 days while investigating them for threatening Jordanian security and inciting sectarian violence. Government officials claimed that security forces found weapons in the station’s offices. The government released the journalists without charges.
Media observers noted that when covering controversial subjects, government-owned Jordan Television, Jordan News Agency, and Radio Jordan reported only the government’s position.
By law any book can be published and or distributed freely; however, if the Press and Publications Directorate deemed passages religiously offensive or “insulting” to the king, it can request a court order to prohibit the distribution of the book.
Violence and Harassment: During the year the government subjected journalists to harassment and intimidation.
On June 22, two members of parliament (MPs) beat, insulted, and threatened to kill an online journalist, Abdallah al-Athim, after he reported that an extraordinary session of parliament had turned into a joke and an exchange of insults. Members of parliament enjoy immunity from prosecution while parliament is in session, and the two MPs did not face charges stemming from the incident.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government directly and indirectly censored the media. Journalists claimed the government used informants in newsrooms and exercised influence over reporting; they claimed GID officials censored reporting. Editors reportedly received telephone calls from security officials instructing them how to cover events or to refrain from covering certain topics or events, especially criticism of political reform. Bribery of journalists took place and undermined independent reporting. On occasion government officials provided texts for journalists to publish under their bylines. Journalists reported the threat of detention and imprisonment under the law for a variety of offenses, along with stringent fines of as much as 20,000 dinars ($28,000) for defamation under the law, which led to self-censorship. At times editors in chief censored articles to prevent lawsuits. The government’s use of “soft containment” of journalists, including the withholding of financial support, scholarships for relatives, and special invitations, led to significant control of media content.
In August, Al-Madina news website published an article claiming that Syrian aircraft had violated Jordanian airspace and fired missiles at a number of border sites within the country. News sources reported that the General Command of the Jordan Armed Forces stated the reports were false and that the Armed Forces would refer all who published false news reports to the State Security Court. Al-Madina removed the story from their website shortly thereafter.
In August, Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism Director Rana Sabbagh posted on Facebook that the semi-independent daily newspaper Al-Ghad refused to publish an article critical of constitutional amendments that gave the king the power to appoint the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of the GID. She later published the article in a London-based newspaper.
The government continued to enforce bans on the distribution of selected books for religious, moral, and political reasons. A news website reported the government banned at least 18 books between June 2013 and June, most often for insulting the royal family.
On May 19, the Print and Publication Department banned the distribution of a novel by Ahmed Zaatari entitled Bending Over the Body of Amman for containing sexual insinuations and insulting the royal family.
Libel Laws/National Security: The government threatened to use libel and slander laws to suppress criticism.
On August 17, the prosecutor general arrested al-Rai newspaper columnist, Abd-al-Hadi Raji al-Majali, after he posted an article on his Facebook page that criticized Interior Minister Hussein al-Majali and discussed the government’s response to political and economic protests in 2011. The prosecutor general charged the columnist with divulging state secrets and slandering public figures.
There were government restrictions on access to the internet. The law requires the licensing and registration of online news websites, holds editors responsible for readers’ comments on their websites, requires that website owners provide the government with the personal data of its users, and mandates that editors in chief be members of the Jordan Press Association. The law gives authorities explicit power to block and censor websites. In June 2013 the government began acting on that authority, shutting 292 news websites for failure to register with the government. According to the Press and Publications Department, 139 remained blocked in April. On June 29, the Press and Publications Department shut 10 news websites, including a widely read blog, for operating without a license. The blog resumed publication shortly thereafter under a new URL, which the Press and Publications Department shut again on August 21. It resumed publishing once more, under yet another URL and was shut two days later. The registration fee for a news website is 1,400 dinars ($1,960). The owner and editor in chief can be fined between 3,000 dinars ($4,200) and 5,000 dinars ($7,000), in addition to criminal penalties, for website content that “includes humiliation, defamation, or disparaging individuals in a manner that violates their personal freedoms or spreads false rumors about them.”
According to journalists, security forces reportedly demanded websites remove some posted articles. The government threatened websites and journalists that criticized the government, while it actively supported those that reported favorably on the government. The government monitored electronic correspondence and internet chat sites. Individuals were unable to express their views fully or freely via the internet, including by personal e-mail. The Ministry of Interior continued to monitor internet cafes via video cameras. The ministry also required cafe owners to register users’ personal data, submit records of websites visited, and prevent access to “targeted” websites, as determined by the ministry.
According to the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, internet penetration was 73 percent.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
The government placed some limits on academic freedom. Some members of the academic community claimed there was a continuing intelligence presence in academic institutions, including monitoring academic conferences and lectures. Academics reported the GID must clear all university professors before their appointment and that all research papers, forums, or seminars must be approved by university administration, which in turn cleared potentially controversial material through the GID.