CJFE concerned for Jordanian journalist

Friday, August 4, 2000

His Excellency Ali Abu Ragehb
Prime Minister of Jordan
Office of the Prime Minister, Press Office
Amman, Jordan
Fax: 962 6 464-2520

Your Excellency,

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an independent organization which promotes freedom of expression and media freedom worldwide. We are writing to express our deep concern upon learning that Nidal Mansour, secretary of the Jordanian Press Association (JPA), chief editor of the weekly Al-Hadath, and chair of the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ), is being brought before the JPA's disciplinary committee. We are particularly concerned that Mansour faces the prospect of discipline specifically because of his involvement with the CDFJ.

According to our information, JPA Council members voted last week to present Mansour to a disciplinary committee after the JPA's legal counselor accused him of a number of violations of the JPA's regulations in connection with his work with the CDFJ. It is claimed that Mansour's membership in the JPA should come under review because his work with the CDFJ prevents him from dedicating himself to full-time work as a journalist. We are aware that the disciplinary committee has the authority to rescind Mansour's membership in the JPA. We also know that exclusion from the JPA would prevent Mansour from working as a journalist in Jordan, as stipulated by the Press and Publications Law. Such harsh and unjustified reprisals for involvement with an organization such as CDFJ constitute a violation of freedom of expression according to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Mansour is also accused of having violated JPA codes by receiving foreign funding on behalf of the CDFJ. Although foreign funding has become a controversial issue in Jordan in recent months, the JPA should avoid applying a double-standard on this issue. The JPA Council itself has reportedly approved participation in training seminars conducted by the US Embassy in Amman or funded by USAID; it has authorized some of its members to seek foreign funding for computers; and as an active member organization of the Arab Journalists' Union, the JPA has benefited from substantial funding from the Netherlands.

In addition, according to our information, your government's position on limitations to foreign funding does not extend to NGO's. As the CDFJ is not a news organization, it does not appear to violate any government restrictions on foreign funding.

Mansour is further accused of being in violation of JPA codes because it is claimed that the CDFJ merely duplicates the role of the JPA. We are aware that the CDFJ has been the target of a negative press campaign for months in your country. As an advocate of media freedom, CJFE is alarmed that an organization dedicated to the same cause has come under attack in Jordan. The CDFJ's specific focus on issues concerning press freedom means that its work does not simply duplicate the role of the Press Association. Rather, this focus should enable the CDFJ to make a unique and valuable contribution to the process of liberalization in Jordan. The work of monitoring press freedom is essential to any process of democratic reform, and can only benefit from diversity among the organizations promoting it. The CDFJ also contributes greatly to the work of the freedom of expression community internationally.

We urge Your Excellency to intervene in order to ensure that Nidal Mansour is able to remain a member of the JPA and continue his work as a journalist, including his duties within the JPA Council, while also continuing his important work with the CDFJ. We will be monitoring Mansour's situation on behalf of the international freedom of expression community.

We thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Sharmini Peries Executive Director, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Cc: Jordan Press Association
Fax: 962 6 566-7170

Dr. Fayez Tarawneh, Chief of the Royal Court
Fax: 962 6 567-7376

Dr. Taleb Al-Ref'ai, Minister of Information
Fax: 962 6 461-0942

Jordan Information Bureau, Washington, DC
Fax: (202) 667-0777

Fadi Al-Qadi, Executive Director, CDFJ
fadi@cdfj.org

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