Parliament and the press
As part of long awaited reform in Jordan, the government sent a new press and publications law to the parliament. The parliament was already unhappy with the press, with the head of the parliament, Abdulhadi Majali, threatening them with tough legislation if they keep criticizing the MP’s. This developed later into MP’s actually beating up reporters in the parliament.
So, the parliament took the opportunity to live up to its threat. They modified the legislation to allow prohibitively high fines and jailing of journalists for “press crimes”. In what seems to have been a childish atmosphere, MP’s taunted the press during the session, refusing to revisit the issue of jailing. The legislation passed and is now in the hands of the senate, where journalists hope that the legislation will be fixed.
Now, in my humble opinion, any politician who goes out of his way to antagonize the press is a complete idiot. Columnists are having a field day ridiculing the parliament, at a particularly interesting time, considering that the chamber will be dissolved soon and new elections are to be held.
Some of the commentary is blunt and straightforward. Samih Maitah published a long laundry list of parliamentary excesses and failures, whereas Jihad Momani (who was jailed for republishing THE CARTOONS) accused the MP’s directly of disregarding the national interest. This line of debate is more subtle but has devastating implications.
Fleshing this out, Salameh Dir’awi (Al Arab al Yawm) argues that Millennium development funds worth over 500 million dollars may be on the line, as granting countries may view the new law as a retreat from the reform that these funds are to reward.
Another important point that is being made (in a somewhat subtle manner) concerns the future makeup of the parliament. Most agree that the current election law will end up producing a parliament similar to this one. Given the anti-democratic nature of the parliament, the message goes, this is unacceptable. So, what is required is a new election law. Now, given that the parliament has proven itself untrustworthy in dealing with public freedoms’ legislation, a new law should be passed without their input (as a temporary law, which most people find distasteful but may accept given the alternative).
So, the pressure is on to produce a new election law to revamp the make up of the parliament, without them having a say in the legislation.
Did I mention that angering the press is stupid?