In a July 10 letter to Jordanian Minister of Higher Education Dr. Mohammad Hamdan made public today, the Human Rights Watch Academic Freedom Committee criticizes the draft press and publications law currently being considered by the Jordanian parliament.

The letter assails three aspects of the proposed law: first, its requirement that all books and other publications be submitted to the ministry of information for pre-publication review; second, its requirement that universities, which are nominally exempt from the censorship provisions of the proposed law, obtain "prior permission" from the ministry before ordering foreign books which might violate the law; and third, a provision of the law which would forbid independent research and polling institutes from accepting "any financial assistance or support" from foreign sources.

"The law would be a disaster for researchers and scholars in Jordan," said Joseph Saunders, an academic freedom specialist at Human Rights Watch who works with the committee. "It is hostile to the free flow of ideas and hostile to the expression of controversial viewpoints. As such, it is incompatible with the most basic principles of research and scholarship."