The year 2001 was marked by a loss of ground for basic freedoms in Jordan, especially due to the fear generated by the reactions of many Palestinian residents in the kingdom regarding the second Intifada. In August King Abdullah said that "supreme national interests are the ceiling on freedom". During the summer a senator and then the chancellor of a university were forced to resign for publishing critical articles about the government.
On 8 October the authorities "warned any party whatsoever that tried to harm the security and stability of the kingdom". The next day restrictive measures were taken against the press. These measures provide for the "permanent or temporary" closure of newspapers in case of publication of information which is "libellous, false or harmful to national unity or to the reputation of the state, or which is an incitement to strike or to hold illegal public meetings or meetings which disturb public order". Sentences for "insulting the royal couple" or the "crown prince" were increased. These offences are now liable to jail sentences of between one and three years, whereas the sanction was formerly a fine. After the penal code was amended in 1999 the principle of closure of newspapers no longer existed in Jordan. This new regulation caused an outcry in the profession. On 10 October Seif Cherif, chairman of the journalism council, said that "these amendments [...] impact on the democratic image of Jordan abroad". In late October measures taken to abolish the information ministry were interpreted by many as a sign of openness by the king who did not, however, revoke the law. In December the monarch set up the supreme council for information, responsible for formulating the country’s information policy, to replace the ministry.
The Internet is used extensively in Jordan without any restrictions on access. In January Chafic Rcheidat Road in the northern town of Irbid applied for an entry in the Guiness Book of Records for its 500 cybercafes on a stretch of less than one kilometre!
Six journalists arrested
Police arrested Tarek Ayoub, journalist with the Qatari channel Al Jazira, and Yasser Zaatre, editorialist with the Jordanian newspaper Al Dustour, on 11 May 2001 while they were covering two anti-Israeli demonstrations banned by the security services. They were released after being detained by the intelligence services.
Maurizio Giuliano, freelance journalist of Italian and British nationality, was arrested on 30 October after crossing Allenby Bridge between Jordan and the Palestinian territories. He was interrogated for five hours. His personal belongings were confiscated but returned to him shortly afterwards.
Security agents arrested Yasser Abu Hilala, Amman correspondent for the Qatari channel Al-Jazira, on 14 December and detained him for 24 hours. The journalist and his crew were covering a demonstration in Ma’an, a town south of the capital, in which a small group of people had expressed support for Osama bin Laden. On the same day, in Amman, Sawsan Abu Hamda, also with Al-Jazira, was arrested and held for questioning for six hours. She had been covering a demonstration by tribes in the capital when she was surrounded by security police who forced her to go to their offices. According to the management of the channel, the journalist was "ill-treated, insulted and humiliated".
Hussein al-Amoush, editor-in-chief of the weekly Al-Shahed, was arrested on 26 December on orders of the state security court for "libel against friendly Arab countries". His arrest followed the publication of a photomontage in which several ministers and the general secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, represented as children, are lying on the ground or crouched against a wall. The journalist was released the next day after the authorities had asked him not to publish documents likely to harm relations with Arab countries.
Pressure and obstruction
On 19 February 2001 the supreme court confirmed the ban on Nidal Mansour, editor-in-chief of the weekly Al Hadath, prohibiting him from practising journalism in Jordan. In September 2000 Nidal Mansour, also president of the CDLJ, the centre for the defence of journalists’ freedom, had been excluded for life from the Jordanian journalists’ union "because he did not work as a journalist full time".
Daniel Sobelman of the Israeli daily Haaretz, Smadar Peri of the daily Yediot Aharonot, Bassem Jaber of the Arabic Israeli daily Panorama, Suleiman As-Shafi from the second Israeli television channel Arutz 2, as well as the cameraman and sound engineer of the latter channel, were forced to leave Amman on 26 March although they intended to cover the Arab Summit on 27 and 28 March. The authorities justified this refusal by explaining that these journalists’ safety could not be guaranteed.
In early August the security services banned several journalists of satellite television channels from filming a demonstration organised by Islamist militants in the Baqaa camp [...] as a sign of solidarity with the Intifada.
A few days after 11 September Jordanian newspapers refused to publish a fatwa by the Islamic Action Front calling for a ban on cooperation with the United States.
In early October security police refused to renew the passports of two Palestinian journalists from Gaza resident in Jordan. Mohammad Ayesh and Jihad Abul Eiss worked for the Islamist weekly As-Sabeel. The weekly reported harassment of the journalists.
The authorities banned the independent weekly Al Bilad on 8 October. The publication was accused of publishing "false and sensational news on the government’s performance".