Amman, Jordan – Press freedom in Jordan regressed last year, particularly after changes to the country’s publications and press law and government moves to block hundreds of online media sites, a new report has revealed.
The report, released by the Jordanian Press Association (JPA) on Sunday, indicated a drop in Jordanian press freedom, from approximately 51.5 percent to 44 percent in 2013.
The report was based on questionnaires and interviews with 470 of the JPA’s 1,048 members, and used press freedom indicators set by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
“A major factor in the decline was the closure of over 270 electronic media sites,” Nour Edeen Khamaiseh, head of the JPA’s press freedom committee, told Al Jazeera after a press conference in Amman.
The Jordanian government was not available for immediate comment on the report.
In 2013, Jordan’s telecommunications regulator blocked hundreds of media sites. At the time, the government said that new websites had to comply with a change to the country’s press and publications law, which requires new websites to be legally registered and to recruit editors-in-chief who are members of the JPA.
The government’s strategy to restrict freedom of media was obvious after the Arab Spring.
According to Freedom House, journalists must be members of the JPA to work legally in Jordan, and journalists who work for web-based publications cannot become members.
Journalists and activists denounced last year’s government decision as a violation of their freedom. “The government’s strategy to restrict freedom of media was obvious after the Arab Spring,” Khamaiseh told Al Jazeera.
Another pressing issue for Jordanian journalists is restricted access to information, the JPA report found.
“Jordan’s access to information law is yet to be enforced,” said Wael Jaraisheh, the editor-in-chief of Amoun news website.
“The law leaves an institution the time of up to 60 days to get back to a journalist, but as you know, after such a duration, the information would be useless,” Jaraisheh told Al Jazeera.
Last year, 18 media workers reported being subjected to torture and cruel treatment, and 29 others were questioned by the Jordanian intelligence department, the report revealed.
In most cases, journalists are questioned by intelligence services after criticising or leaking private information about high-level Jordanian officials, Khamaiseh said.