Clamping Down on Critics

Human Rights Violations in Advance of the Elections

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Freedom of expression and press freedom are essential conditions for the conduct of free and fair elections. But in the pre-election period, Jordanian authorities have used the laws in force, and other means such as threats and intimidation by internal security forces and government officials, to restrict free expression, including press freedom, in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Jordan has ratified. This report documents a series of actions taken by the government to tame the print media -- including the temporary closure of thirteen weekly newspapers in September -- and intimidate political critics into silence. Journalists and editors told Human Rights Watch that they have followed a stricter regime of self-censorship since the amendments to the press law were implemented in May 1997, for fear of being subjected to heavy financial penalties mandated under the new law. In addition, students, writers, and researchers have faced a variety of sanctions -- ranging from detention, criminal prosecution, and imprisonment to harassment, job loss, and blacklisting -- because they expressed views on political subjects that the government preferred remain off-limits. Such measures have created an atmosphere in which the right to free expression is perceived by many in Jordan as under siege.

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