Press freedom in Jordan: between repressive legislation and economic challenges

الرابط المختصر

AmmanNet – Hadeel Al-bees

In light of the global celebrations of World Press Freedom Day, which falls on May 3 of each year, Jordan is witnessing a significant decline in the field of journalism, in terms of achieving the required journalistic independence, a deterioration in the economic conditions of many institutions and their workers, and a tightening of legislation.


In the Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders for the year 2024,Jordan ranked 132nd in the Press Freedom Index 2024 out of 180 countries, reflecting the increasing challenges facing the journalistic profession in the country.


Although Jordan advanced 14 places after it finding itself in 146th place in last year’s rankings, it is still far from the rank it was in in 2022 when it was in 120th place.


Dangerous decline


This significant decline in the level of press freedoms is described by writer and political analyst Osama Al-Rantisi as a dangerous matter, pointing out that the press freedom index cannot be separated from the state of public freedoms, and he believes that the slight progress in the field of public freedoms has not reflected in the state of the media.


Al-Rantisi believes that any restrictions on the media in covering political, social, and economic events will negatively affect the level of ranking in the Press Freedom Index. Preventing some institutions from covering major events in the country has become considered a frequent occurrence.


The economic and living conditions of workers in these media institutions are suffering from difficult and deteriorating conditions, and may be in dangerous stages, as many journalists have been laid off from media institutions, which has affected them economically, according to what Al-Rantisi indicates.


The "Reporters Without Borders" report reveals in the economic context of press freedom in Jordan that "private media outlets are struggling with all their might to survive, and some choose not to criticize companies and public figures in order to obtain part of the funding allocated to journalism."


Restriction by legislation

Although the laws protect freedom of expression, the press, and the media within the limits of the law, in accordance with Article 15 of the Constitution, the government has used anti-terrorism, cybercrime, press, and publications laws and sanctions to control these freedoms, leading to the arrest of journalists and a crackdown on local media.


Al-Rantisi points out that there are many pieces of legislation that have contributed to restricting the freedom of the press and the media, including the cybercrime law, which has greatly affected journalists and media institutions, considering that the world is heading towards a period of open freedom, while we are looking for laws to restrict these freedoms, undermining the role of media workers.


Among the measures that may restrict freedom of the press and media recommended by the General Authority of the Jordanian Journalists Syndicate at its last meeting, is one referring to “impersonators” to the public prosecutor, in accordance with the union’s law.


In the Syndicate Law, the definition of “journalist” is defined as “a member of the Syndicate registered in the Register of Practicing Journalists, who has adopted journalism as a profession.” The number of practicing journalists is approximately 1,375 since the Syndicate Law was issued 26 years ago.


New narrowing

Journalists Syndicate member Maher Al-Shraideh pointed out in his interview with AmmanNet that the General Authority’s decision to convert “professional impersonators” is not reprehensible, as this falls under the legislative text in the Syndicate’s law.


Al-Shraida explains the context that led the General Authority of the Syndicate to take this decision, due to a group of activists on social media playing the role of journalist and working on websites, without actually belonging to any media body, and this greatly affects those working in this profession within the regulations and the laws.


According to Al-Shraida, journalists who practice this profession must be members of the union and the journalistic institution in which they work in must be accredited by the union, otherwise their work is illegal.


However, Al-Shraida believes that this legal text needs to be amended, as it is not appropriate to apply it strictly without considering modern developments in the field of media, especially with the advancement of technology and the spread of digital media.


The Journalists Syndicate Law issued in 1998 stipulates in Article 16 that no journalistic institution in the Kingdom may employ any person in any journalistic work if he is not one of the members whose names are listed in the register of practicing journalists.


Article 18 of the Syndicate Law prohibits non-practicing journalists or journalists stipulated in Article (9) of this law from corresponding with foreign newspapers and advertising themselves as a journalist or with any phrase that gives this meaning. It also prohibits advertising, advertising, publishing and distribution offices from adding any word or a phrase in the title of its publications or advertisements stating this meaning, unless it is licensed to issue press publications. 

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