Your Voice in a World where Zionism, Steel, and Fire, have Turned Justice Mute



October 12, 2001

His Majesty King Abdullah Ibn Hussein
C/o His Excellency Ambassador Dr. Marwan Muasher
Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
3504 International Drive, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Via facsimile: 202-966-3110

Your Majesty:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely concerned about recent
amendments to Jordan's Penal Code that constitute a serious threat to press
freedom and violate the right to free expression guaranteed under
international law.

On October 8, the government of Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb quietly
introduced the "temporary" amendments without public or parliamentary
debate. The amendments, which were approved by Your Majesty and took effect
immediately, grant authorities sweeping powers to jail and fine journalists
and to shut down publications that violate a host of vaguely defined

According to Jordanian newspapers, the amendments stipulate that
publications can be temporarily or permanently banned for printing "false or
libelous information that can undermine national unity or the country's
reputation," "aggravate basic social norms," "sow the seeds of hatred," or
"harm the honor or reputation of individuals," among numerous other

Offending editors, publishers, or reporters face prison sentences of up to
six months and fines of 5,000 Jordanian dinars (about US$7,000) for
violating these and other bans.

The new amendments also expand the Penal Code article that criminalizes
"insulting the dignity of the king." The article already stipulates a prison
term of between one and three years and fines of up to 5,000 Jordanian
dinars for anyone who insults Your Majesty or the royal family. The amended
article now outlaws insulting or attributing false statements to the king in
print, in cartoons, or on the Internet.

The amendments, which contain other provisions aimed at fighting terrorism,
were introduced after Jordanian officials warned they would not tolerate any
so-called efforts to destabilize the country in the aftermath of the U.S.
military strikes on Afghanistan.

Authorities have said the law will be reviewed by parliament, which was
dissolved by Your Majesty in June and is not expected to reconvene until
September 2002, after new elections.

In 1997, under the late King Hussein, the government of Prime Minister Abdel
Salam al-Majalli introduced "temporary" amendments to the 1993 Press and
Publications Law. These amendments granted officials wide authority to
suspend, fine, and permanently close newspapers that violated the law's
broad and ambiguous content bans.

Thirteen weekly newspapers were shut down shortly after the new amendments
took effect. In 1998 and 1999, some of the most repressive provisions were
repealed. We are disheartened that Jordan has now taken a dramatic step
backwards. The amendments announced this week, with their explicit prison
penalties, are even more restrictive than the 1997 measures.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press
freedom worldwide, CPJ believes the new Penal Code amendments seriously
threaten press freedom in Jordan. Their provisions, which effectively
legalize censorship and the jailing of journalists for their work,
constitute flagrant violations of the most fundamental rights to free
expression guaranteed under international law.

We call for the immediate repeal of these amendments so that journalists can
carry out their professional duties freely.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to your


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

American Society of Newspaper Editors
Amnesty International
Article 19 (United Kingdom)
Artikel 19 (The Netherlands)
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Human Rights Watch
Index on Censorship
International Center for Journalists
International Federation of Journalists
International PEN
International Press Institute
Lorne W. Craner, United States Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human
Rights, and Labor
The Newspaper Guild
The North American Broadcasters Association
Overseas Press Club
Reporters Sans Frontières
Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Society of Professional Journalists
World Association of Newspapers
World Press Freedom Committee

Joel Campagna
Program Coordinator
Middle East and North Africa

Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue
12th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Tel: (212) 465-1004, x-103
Fax: (212) 465-9568