Is Jordan's Freedom of Speech at Stake? Popular Cartoonist Arrested After a Caricature on UAE-Israel Relations

Published August 27th, 2020 - 06:28 GMT
Is Jordan's Freedom of Speech on Stake? Popular Cartoonist Arrested After a Caricature on UAE-Israel Relations
Emad Hajjaj depicted the Emirati crown prince Mohammad bin Zayed holding a pigeon with the Israeli flag spitting on MBZ's face. (Al Bawaba)

A prominent Jordanian cartoonist has reportedly been arrested late on Wednesday night following a caricature, in which he sarcastically addressed the tensions between the UAE and Israel only a few weeks after a normalization deal between the two countries was announced by the US President Donald Trump.

In his caricature, Emad Hajjaj depicted the Emirati crown prince Mohammad bin Zayed holding a pigeon with the Israeli flag spitting on MBZ's face, hinting at what has been dubbed as "the peace deal" not yet finalized between the two countries, which has faced tensions recently after an Israeli rejection of a US arms deal to the UAE.

Over the last week, several reports have suggested that the UAE may be canceling scheduled meetings with Israeli officials, in response to statements made by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he said he will ask the US to halt an arms deal to the UAE which is expected to include advanced F35 combat aircraft. The Israeli rejection of the arms sale was justified by the country's fear of losing its long-established military advantage in the Middle East.

As soon as news of Hajjaj's arrest went viral online, several commentators including popular journalists tweeted in solidarity with the prominent cartoonist saying; freedom of speech in Jordan continues to be threatened ever since the Jordanian government issued the cybercrime law in 2015, which, according to Human Rights Watch has "broad and vague provisions."

Upon the announcement of Abraham Accords between the UAE and Israel two weeks ago, the UAE has come under fire as many pro-Palestinian voices considered the deal "unnecessary and comes in violation of the Arabs' long-commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which conditions the Arab recognition of Israel with the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Palestinian occupied territories during the 1967 war."

Yesterday, a senior member of the royal family in Jordan seemed pressured to remove a tweet; in which he had shared an article written in English by the Israeli historian Avi Shlaim and addressing the messages entailed in the UAE-Israeli deal, after igniting strong online controversies amongst Emirati and Saudi commentators.

According to a 2020 report by Reporters Without Borders, Jordan ranks the 128th country out of 180 worldwide in terms of freedom of the press.


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