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Beirut, February 16, 2010

Press release

The Jordanian Prime Minister Annexes the Press and Publications


Department to the Ministry of Culture

Amman – SKeyes Special Report

Yesterday Monday the 16th of February 2010, the Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifai
decided to annex the Press and Publications Department to the Ministry of Culture, and to
task the minister to assume all the administrative functions and powers of the department,
in accordance with the legislation in force.

In a statement issued on Tuesday morning, the official news agency Petra said: “this step
is the result of the government‟s keenness to broaden the margins of freedom and unchain
the process of cultural and intellectual creativity without censorship, and also in line with
global developments taking place in the intellectual and cultural arena, where people can
easily gain access to intellectual and literary works through the modern means of
communications. Hence, censorship is no longer relevant in this time and age”.

While a number of Jordanian intellectuals and publishers welcomed this decision, they
simultaneously demanded that the Publications Law, as well as post-publication
censorship on books be abolished.
In an interview with the Al-Ghad newspaper published on Tuesday, the President of the
Writers Association, the storyteller Saud Qubeilat said that he hopes that “the issue of
both pre- and post-publication censorship over publications will soon end”. He also
stressed that “it is still too early to form a real opinion regarding this issue, especially
when past experiences always make us feel as though there is someone willing to crack
down on the freedom of expression without any legal justifications”.

According to the president of the Jordanian Publishers Union Mahmoud Jabr, “the
decision is a leap in the path of democracy and the freedom of expression”. He also
indicated that “the Press and Publications Department had no significant involvement
with the publishing houses recently, as these latter resorted to auto-censorship on their
publications, away from censorship by the Press and Publications Department, and also
since these houses do not publish anything in violation of public morality in the first
place”.

Samir Kassir Foundation, Aref Saghieh Bldg.( Ground Floor), 63, Zahrani St., Sioufi, Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon
Tel /Fax: 00961 1 397334, Mobile: 00961 3 372717, E-Mail Address: info@skeyesmedia.org
Meanwhile, the owner of the publishing house Dar al-Ahliya stressed that the
“affiliations of the department is not important. What matter are the results that we shall
ultimately see regarding this issue”. He then demanded that “the Publications Law be
abolished” and indicated that “the Department banned many titles that were imported
several days ago”.

In turn, the owner of the Azmina Publishing House, the novelist Elias Farkouh, said: “the
decision in appearance promises a lot, but it leaves many details without clarification”.
He then wonders: “will there still be censorship against books or was that lifted?” He also
pointed out that “what is important in this regard is abolishing the Publications Law and
not leaving it in its current form and the ensuing ambiguity”.

Also, the owner of the Arab Institution for Research and Publishing, and the of the Al-
Fares Publishing House Maher al-Kiyali said: “we have waited too long for this decision
which will take the swords off the necks of Jordanian publishers and writers”. He then
indicated that the publishers “have been demanding for years to render the Press and
Publications Department into a department for research and information that benefits the
researchers instead of restraining their freedoms”, and wished that “this move will be a
radical step towards solving the ongoing conflict between freedom and creativity on one
hand, and the confiscation of opinion on the other hand”.

The SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom praises the Jordanian government‟s
move to annex the Press and Publications Department to the Ministry of Culture, and
encourages similar „expected‟ steps that include the abolishment of the Publications Law,
and also post-publication censorship on books. At the same time, SKeyes reiterates its
appeal to the Jordanian government to work swiftly on reversing the sentences issued
against writers and journalists against the backdrop of their opinions, and to suspend all
prosecutions and trials against similar backdrops that fall within the scope of restrictions
against the freedom of expression and opinion. Such harassments damage the reputation
of the Kingdom first and foremost, and increases concerns regarding the future of
freedoms there.

Samir Kassir Foundation, Aref Saghieh Bldg.( Ground Floor), 63, Zahrani St., Sioufi, Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon
Tel /Fax: 00961 1 397334, Mobile: 00961 3 372717, E-Mail Address: info@skeyesmedia.org