Freedom House (Author)
Jordan took limited steps toward advancing press freedom in 2003 by eliminating elements of the penal code that restricted press freedom and replacing the ministry of information with an appointed Higher Media Council in October. In April, the government repealed Article 150 of the penal code, an amendment introduced by royal decree two years earlier that gave the State Security Court (SSC) the power to close publications and imprison individuals for publishing information deemed harmful to national unity or the reputation of the state. Despite this improvement, other articles of the penal code continue to limit press freedom, such as provisions that restrict criticism of the royal family, the national assembly, and public officials. Prior to the repeal of Article 150, the SSC prosecuted and convicted three journalists from the weekly Al-Hilal in February for publishing an article that allegedly demonstrated a lack of respect for the Prophet Muhammad's family. The government closely monitors content in the print media and enjoys a monopoly on the domestic broadcast media. In August, the government withdrew accreditation for the Qatar-based regional satellite channel, Al-Jazeera, accusing the channel of insulting Jordan's royal family. Informers in newspapers reportedly alert government officials about draft articles and stories that might be considered objectionable, and editors and journalists report pressure from state officials to stop the publication of certain articles. In September 2003, the government ordered the independent weekly Al-Wehda to remove an article about torture in Jordanian prisons. When this article was not removed, the government ordered a ban on that edition of the newspaper. Jordanians generally enjoy unrestricted access to the Internet, which is not censored by the government.