Saturday, March 17, 2007

The slick senate

The press is excited about how the education and media committee of the senate has recommended removal of jail penalties for four additional offences added by the lower house to the proposed press and publications law. The proposed new law had added new offenses that can land a journalist in jail. These are (1) publishing anything that would lead to degrading, libeling or belittling any of the religions afforded freedoms in the constitution, (2) insulting or maligning any of the fathers of the monotheistic religions by writing, drawing, photography (?) or any other method, (3) what can be construed as insulting the feeling or religious belief or inciting sectarian or racial hatred, (4) maligning the dignity of individuals and their personal freedom or publishing false information or rumors about them. The meanings of many of these terms are open to interpretation, which was meant to chill the drive for more press freedoms.

To make sure this sticks, the parliament also listed similar offenses in the modified penal code, as well as “offending the dignity of the state”, equating many of these offenses to terrorism.

Now, the senate gesture is practically useless. It still allows for the jailing of journalists under the 23 other laws that constrict freedom of expression. Added to that, the senate legal committee approved the controversial changes to the penal code.

While commentators are favorably comparing the senate with the lower house, I would grant that they are slicker than the lower house. As for the press being happy with this, I would use the term pathetic.


At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Khalaf I have to disagree. The senate again did a good job and kept the lower house in control. The mere mentioning of "refusal to jail" journalists is an accomplishment because this will be more related to press freedoms that the other 23 laws. Yes if a journalist issued fasle checks he should be jailed but under another law. The press and publications law should stop jailing. On the other hand the most annoying practice was not jailing but arrest. Now journalists are immune from being arrested and stopped in security departments because of what they write. I have to say that the Senate is wiser and more progressive than the lower house.

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Come on Batir. You know that this is cosmetic, and that if the government wants to jail a journalist it can do so by citing one of the other 23 laws.

As for arrest, it was banned (sort of) by the lower house. What makes the senate so progressive?

At 10:33 PM, Blogger Mohanned said...

Khalaf ya khalaf,
Esma3 I got the soloution,
1-The press is free to publish what ever they want. no strings attached...anything..
2-The state should distance itself from anything published by non-state media( to avoid problems our "arab brothers" because they are the only people offended by freedom:) )
3-Regarding relegion: Relegion itself not be insulted, but relegious issues must be debated.
4-you know what I am tired..Just let people say what ever they want..

At 2:23 AM, Blogger FadiMalian said...

What is Ironic, is that the first hit "from lower house" occured a day before king Abdullah speech to the Joint Meeting of Congress (I hope I am right with the timeline :) ) and the king quoted from president Roosevelt's four freedom speech "the four freedoms, freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion".!! Isn't that ironic?

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Mohannad: Your ideas are good in theory. However, "Arab brothers" will get mad at us if our press attacks them. No amount of convincing will make a difference.

As for religion, the line between discussing it and insulting it can be blurred, especially when people want to use religious discourse for political ends. How can you say that a certain policy based on Sharia is inappropriate without offending the proponents, implying that religion is not suitable as a source of policy?

F.M.: It is more than ironic. It is depressing.

At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I so wary about your friend "" who deletes his post about Arab peace offer with Israel!

Did you know why?
Please let us know

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Anon: I have no idea. I found a post on this issue on the Good Neighbours blog, which was written by Issam. Is this what you are referring to?

At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, here's a question: do you think there's a difference in what the English language press can "get away with" in comparison with the Arabic language press? And if so, why?

At 11:49 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

DGS: I doubt there is much difference. The same constraints apply in both cases.


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