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Jordan journalists protest anti-corruption bill

(AFP) / 28 September 2011

AMMAN — The Jordan Press Association (JPA) board threatened on Wednesday to resign if MPs approve a controversial bill that would criminalise corruption allegations, saying it undermines media freedom.

Under article 23 of the Anti-Corruption Commission bill, those who publicly accuse others of corruption without proof will be fined between 30,000 dinars ($42,000) and 60,000 dinars ($85,000).

“We demand parliament scrap article 23, or at least discuss it thoroughly with us before approval,” JPA board member Rakan Saideh told AFP.

“My colleague Hekmat Momoni and I have submitted our resignations. The entire board will quit if the article is approved.”

The lower house approved the article on Tuesday by a vote of 56-40. It is currently being debated by the senate, which is expected to endorse it on Thursday, Saideh said.

“The article seeks to silence journalists and deputies who want to fight corruption. It will protect the corrupt,” independent MP Abdullah Nsur, a former minister who rejected the article, told AFP.

MP Jamil Nemri describe the proposal as “one of the worst laws.”

“It is a very sad day for those who seek reforms and democracy.”

Jordan’s powerful opposition Islamists also condemned the bill, saying “it shows the influence of corruption in the country.”

“What is happening proves that there is no will for genuine reforms,” Rheil Ghraibeh, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political and media department, said on the group’s website.

“The law is designed to protect corrupt people, who are very powerful in Jordan and have strong influence on the government and the lower house.”

But deputy Khalil Attieh defended the move.

“It is a preventive measure against people who want to accuse others of corruption. It fights lies and false accusations and does not affect press freedom,” he said.

Jordanians have been demonstrating since January to demand general reforms and tougher action against corruption.

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