State security police have kept journalists under pressure despite King Abdallah II’s promises of democratic reform. A new government after parliamentary elections in November 2007 did not produce major changes for the media and self-censorship continues.
Hopes raised after parliament in March 2007 cancelled a law providing for prison terms for press offences quickly faded. However, MPs did drop plans to crack down hard on written “insults” to religion and its leaders. The legal action begin in 2006 against a journalist who reprinted the Danish newspaper cartoons of the prophet Mohammed was abandoned. But these encouraging developments were not enough to reassure journalists ever mistrustful of the authorities, who continued to use interference and hidden pressure to control the press.
Secret police seized video-cassettes from journalist Ghassan Ben Jeddou, of the pan-Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera on 18 April 2007. On his Open Dialogue programme, he had interviewed the king’s uncle, Prince Hassan Bin Talal, and asked him about religious clashes and US Arab policy. Two weeks later, state security stopped the weekly Al-Majd from coming out for allegedly “undermining national interests.” It had planned to run an article about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his plans to boost his party. Copies were seized at the printers. The privately-owned station ATV, which obtained a broadcasting licence in 2005, has still not been allowed on the air. Station managers had planned to start up during 2007 and had launched a publicity campaign in the press.
The Internet is just as closely watched as the traditional media and the government extended control of news websites in September 2007 by making online publications subject to the press law. Former MP Ahmad Oweidi Abbadi was given a two-year prison sentence on 11 October for posting on his party’s website news considered harmful to the government’s reputation. He had criticised corruption high up in the regime and passed on details of it to the US government, a regime ally.