Following an op-ed in which he expressed concern over news that high-ranking officials are already receiving the Pfizer vaccine in Jordan before the public and prior to the government official announcement, Jordanian journalist Jamal Haddad was arrested and summoned to the State Security Court last Thursday. This triggered a wave of criticism amongst Jordanians who attacked what they called as the Kingdom's worsening record on press freedoms.
Jordan: Journalist Jamal Haddad arrested for writing that senior government officials have been secretly vaccinated against COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/B9WbKWCtAh— Khaled Abu Toameh (@KhaledAbuToameh) December 26, 2020
While Haddad's article didn't claim to report verified information, he questioned the government's announcements after a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Education announced on her Facebook page receiving the vaccine, saying the government owes the public an explanation over which vaccines are being used in the country and how will it be distributed to the people.
Referring to the official's Facebook post, Haddad asked in his op-ed whether the government has already started receiving the Pfizer vaccine, especially since earlier statements made expected the jab to arrive in Jordan in late January or early February.
Jordanian journalist Jamal Haddad has been detained sent to the state security court after he wrote a column in which he asked questions about covid vaccine. Independent journalists and the Syndicate have protested the act which is contrary to government and King's commitments— Daoud Kuttab داود كُتّاب (@daoudkuttab) December 25, 2020
The arrest of journalists by the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a flagrant violation of the public freedoms that the country's ruling regime has long sung in front of international platforms and conferences.#جمال_حداد #الاردن@hrw@UNICEF pic.twitter.com/8ZYuIj843p— General Inspector (@GeneralInspect2) December 25, 2020
On Thursday morning, Haddad was reportedly arrested by the police before being referred to the State Security Court, which only deals with issues that threaten national security.
Responding to these questions, the Jordan Minister of Health Natheer Obeidat clarified that the vaccine the official said she received is the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, that is already being tested in Jordan over the last several months.
Social media users quickly started using a number of hashtags calling on the government to release Haddad immediately, arguing Jordanian journalists have the right to question official procedure and demand answers without being persecuted.
وقفة احتجاجية أمام مقر نقابة الصحفيين بالأردن دعما للصحفي #جمال_حداد الذي اعتقل على خلفية مقال له كشف فيه عن تلقي بعض المسؤولين لقاح #كورونا دون إعلان رسمي عن وصول اللقاح إلى البلاد pic.twitter.com/FO4UaI17pM— صحيفة الاستقلال (@alestiklal) December 27, 2020
Translation: "A protest in front of the Jordan Journalists Syndicate office in support of Jamal Haddad who has been in detention following an op-ed that reported news of officials receiving the COVID19 vaccine before an official announcement of it arriving in Jordan."
حكومتنا العزيزة،— Mureed Hammad (@mureedhammad) December 26, 2020
لم اقرأ مقال جمال حداد، لكن الان اصبح عندي رغبة بقراءته. فسجنكم لصحفي بسبب مقال جعلني ميال لان اصدق ما قد يكون قد كتبه. طول عمرها الناس بتصدق البي بي سي ومونتي كارلو والسي ان ان وحتى الاعلام الاسرائيلي. ما عمركم سألتو لماذا لا يصدقكم احد؟؟؟ #الصحافة_ليست_جريمة
Translation: "Dear government. I didn't read Jamal Haddad's op-ed, but I want to do so now. Putting a journalist in jail because of an article makes me want to believe him. People have always believed what BBC and Monte Carlo and even the Israeli press say. Have you ever asked why people don't believe you? Journalism isn't a crime."
However, Haddad isn't the first Jordanian journalist to be arrested in 2020. According to Human Rights Watch, freedoms in the country have been undermined ever since the government announced the state of emergency last March, following the coronavirus outbreak.
On Thursday and Saturday, dozens of Jordanian journalists gathered, protesting Haddad's arrest, especially after reports that he suffered health complications that resulted in transferring him to hospital as doctors suspected he had a heart attack.
© 2000 - 2021 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)