Thursday, November 09, 2006

Human rights watch and freedom square

Human rights watch today issued a statement criticizing the government for intimidating critics. They were referring to the threat to prosecute Adnan Abu Odeh for having a long tongue (Jordanese for insulting the king). Anyway, he should have known that freedom of speech is only granted to people saying nice things. After all, he was a minister of information and he was personally responsible for shutting down a number of publications. He, of all people, should know the limits of free speech in Jordan. Anyway, threatening offensive speech with prosecution has a chilling effect on free speech, according to HRW. Who would have guessed? Is it article 150?

Now, the ill informed people at HRW seem to be ignoring the government’s promise to establish freedom square. What is the purpose of this HRW campaign? These things take time. Since the government took power about a year ago, it has been moving on implementing this great idea. There were 24 laws on the books that would have prevented the establishment of FS when the Bakhit government took over. Now, after a year, there are, well, 24. So, at this rate, we should march on freedom square sometime in, well, never. But hey, it’s the thought that counts.

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At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe, and this is my own opinion, that nobody gets it right. Take for example the following quote from the HRW story:

Abu Odeh states he responded to the minister, saying, “nobody comes forth and says ‘Jerusalem? Screw it!’ until your king returns restore [Jerusalem] the same way he [intentionally] lost it.”

hmm, is that so? Did Abu Odeh really mean that King Hussein "intentionally" lost Jerusalem in the war? It was certainly not the impression that I, a native speaker of Arabic, got when I read the Arabic text of the interview. Not that the individual who wrote this piece couldn't possibly be a native speaker of Arab him or herself, but being one, I certainly did not see that meaning in the words.

It's irrelevant to the main point of the HRW statement which I believe all of us agree with; there should be freedom of speech in the country, but I can't help point out the peripheral notions that some writers try to push on their readers, especially when it's done through personal interpretation (maybe twisting) of other people's words.

There is something in that interpretation of Abu Odeh's words that moves away from the middle, and that is what I'm pointing out.

At 10:52 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hamzeh: I don't think that Abu Odeh meant to imply that the king intentionally gave Jerusalem away. But even if he did, that is not the point.

My feeling is that the whole story about the cabinet meeting and Abu Odeh's heroism is made up. It simply doesn't fit.

At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The passages HRW included in its statment are very relevant as they relate to the charges against Abu Odeh. These charges relate to words Abu Odeh his opinion...expressed in the same language the filed charges were in. So HRW's translation of Abu Odeh's original words is not the main point here...

What peripheral notions? What middle?
On what basis were the charges of slander and stirring internal strife filed? weren't they on someone's own personal interpretation of Abu Odeh's words?

At 1:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

freedom of speech in jordan; that's a contradiction in terms.

here, in the U S, people criticize the President, and nobody was called unpatriotic because of it; the night shows even make jokes about him.

Lighten up in jordan; we are not in the dark ages!!

At 6:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous, here in the US we have our own redlines.

For nearly a year after 9/11 it was nearly impossible to criticize the president, and if you did you most certainly were called unpatriotic! Fine, there's no law to prosecute you, but plenty of other ways to pressure people.

Former Attorney General Ashcroft esentially called critics of the Bush team terrorist sympathizers, aiding and abetting "our enemies". Others have said similar things.

And try criticizing Israel if you're a public figure and see what happens to your career.

We don't live in a happy fairyland of freedoms, except in our imaginations.


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