Jordan's MPs call for press and media law change

Published February 12th, 2013 - 12:40 GMT
The media should not be subject to any form of censorship to allow it to act out its role properly
The media should not be subject to any form of censorship to allow it to act out its role properly

Ten deputies on Monday submitted a memorandum to amend the disputed Press and Publications Law, responding to public demands chiefly from the online media.

In their motion, deputies called on the government to scrap various articles, including one that gives the Press and Publications Department (PPD) director the authority to block news websites that do not obtain licences for their portals in accordance with the law.

PPD Director Fayez Shawabkeh noted that the memo is constitutional as the group meets the minimum requirement of MPs who can submit a memo to the House speaker to enact a new law or amend an existing one. However, he brushed off their criticism of the said law.

“As such, the speaker refers the bill to the House Legal Committee for revision. If the committee decided that the request is based on solid grounds, it refers it to the House for voting,” he told The Jordan Times over the phone.

Ajloun MP Kholoud Khatatbeh, a signatory to the memo, said she believes that the media should not be subject to any form of censorship to allow it to act out its role properly.

“I am a journalist myself and I understand what it means for a journalist to work in an environment free of any sort of restrictions to the freedom of the press.”

She added that the signatories initiated the memo, and “in the coming few days, we will embark in discussions with stakeholders in the online media and the Jordan Press Association [JPA],” she told The Jordan Times.

The memo also called for removing an article which conditions that news websites must be run by an editor-in-chief who has been a member of the JPA for at least five years.

The MPs also called for lowering fines on websites that violate the law, and amend a paragraph that holds websites responsible for comments on posts.

Shawabkeh stressed that the law “does not aim to control the online media sphere, but to institutionalise it”.

“Requiring websites to obtain licences has nothing to do with press freedoms. This is a process required by all other institutions operating in the media field, including the print and the audiovisual media.”

He said that there are 475 news websites in the Kingdom, more than 80 of which are already registered.

“None of them have complained that there are restrictions that forced them to change their news coverage after registration.”

The law, which was amended last year, requires local news websites to register and obtain licences from the PPD, while registration fees were lowered from JD10,000 to JD1,000.

“Should the bill get the support of the majority, the House speaker can ask the government to amend the legislation in question and the government will have to abide,” Shawabkeh added.

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