September 25, 2007

Going backward - Government to Monitor the freedom of Electronic Media

AMMAN -Jordan Times
A government decision to scrutinize contents of web-based news services has drawn angry reaction from press groups, with the Jordan Press Association (JPA) describing the move as “a step backward” in the Kingdom’s stride towards a free press.
The association called on the government to reconsider its decision, which it said would have devastating impact on freedom of expression, according to Tareq Momani, head of the JPA.
“We strongly reject monitoring electronic media,” he told The Jordan Times on Monday, adding the measure contradicts His Majesty King Abdullah’s vision for a free press.
“Electronic media has become a driving force among media organisations as far as freedom of expression and objective reporting are concerned. We must encourage them to continue their honourable work, instead of impeding their progress.”
Officials at the Press and Publications Department (PPD) confirmed they have begun monitoring materials published on local news websites.
According to Mohammad Quteishat, head of the PPD, the legal definition of “publication” places electronic journalism in the print media category.
Citing Article II of the Press and Publications Law, endorsed by Parliament earlier this year, Quteishat said a publication is defined as “every publishing outlet that portrays ideas or thoughts in any form”.
“This definition clearly indicates that electronic media is under our jurisdiction… What applies to print media applies to electronic media in terms of legal responsibility,” Quteishat told The Jordan Times, noting that his department’s job is limited to referring cases of electronic media violations for prosecution.
“We are not going to censor contents of websites. But if there was a breach of law, we will take necessary measures,” said Quteishat.
He stressed the department has no right to shut down or revoke the licence of any publication in case of violation.

According to one leading journalist, who runs a news website, there is no need, so far, to obtain a licence for such sites from authorities.
The PPD said the decision was based on an interpretation of the Press and Publications Law by the Legislative Bureau at the Prime Ministry, which tags electronic media as part of the other forms of media such as print media.
The Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists issued a statement on Monday lambasting the government for the step, seen as a way to “muzzle press freedoms”.
The centre said its legal department concluded that subjecting electronic media to censorship is against the law.
The first thing that came to my mind was:

Why they want to control the electronic media instead of blocking Pornographic web sites? Or anti-religion websites, anti-Arab, racist websites, etc. Or we just want to keep our citizens ignorant, shut their minds, cut the resources for expression and communication?

This is a clear contradiction to the principle of the freedom of expression as "sky is the limit" as our King advocates. Why don't the decision makers in this country don't understand or know how to follow the leadership of our King?

Electronic journalism is part of alternative media, which has opened way to a higher degree of press freedom and mainstream media. This is a step backward, to the development of our country, and the future of democracy in Jordan. Sending us to the dark ages again!

However, I am not sure how this can be implemented?

Will they block "some" websites or "Blogs"? or can they control the comments? What about the forums: local, regional, and global forums. Or the Web2.0 user based websites ...

No no no no ...whoever thought of this decision doesn't really understand the electronic press, or what is the Alternative Media and doesn't respect the freedom of speech that our king advocates.

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