Designation of civil space as ‘repressed’ gets mixed reaction at home

(Photo: Jordan Teachers Syndicate)
AMMAN — The designation of civil space in Jordan as “repressed” by an international rights group was received with mixed reactions from figures concerned with the issue, with all agreeing that the situation can be remedied.اضافة اعلان

A November report by Civicus Monitor, a Geneva-based global civil society alliance, cited a series of developments in 2021, including the dissolution of the Jordan Teachers Syndicate (JTS) and the consequent sacking of teachers from their government jobs, internet access restrictions, and muzzling activists and civil society actors.

“In November 2021, the governor of the capital Amman prevented the JTS from holding a press conference that was meant to discuss several issues. Additionally, activists from the union have faced ongoing intimidation, harassment, and arbitrarily (sic) detentions. Freedom of expression is also under threat, with internet freedoms severely restricted in the country.

Authorities have limited access to information through blocking the internet, including social media, when there are politically sensitive developments and issuing gagging orders,” the report stated.

In response, Jordanian activists and a lawmaker acknowledged that the civil society situation in Jordan needs improvement but some considered the ranking unfair.

MP Saleh Al-Armouti, a veteran jurist, blamed the government for the damage to its reputation through restrictions on the internet, the freedom of the press, and civil society, “especially as security considerations are dominant,” he said.
“We have seen people arrested for protesting against the gas and energy-for-water deals (with Israel)," the Islamist lawmaker said, charging that the security agencies had mistreated those arrested.

"This matter will have consequences for Jordan in its dealings with the international community,” Armouti said. He added that the orders issued under the Defense Law are against the Constitution because they suspend vital civil laws.

Armouti agreed with the report in criticizing the dissolution of the JTS, describing it as “unconstitutional”, but noted that the government had walked back on its earlier move to fire teachers.

Director of the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ), Nidal Mansour, who was quoted in the Civicus report, said the deterioration in the state of press freedoms is obvious, agreeing with Armouti that the authorities took advantage of the pandemic to impose more restrictions on public freedoms and that there have been violations of human rights in its response to protests.

Mansour said that the drop in the ranking from “obstructed” to “repressed” comes at a time when the government only offers lip service when it talks about freedoms.

Noureddine Nadim, spokesperson for the JTS, told Jordan News that the drop in ranking “is not good news and will have consequences for Jordan at the economic level and with its international engagements”.

He said that what happened with the teachers syndicate was a "short-term crisis that will pass and can be resolved if all listen to the voice of wisdom and reason", noting that the decision to return dismissed teachers to their jobs was a step in the right direction.

For Commissioner-General of the National Center for Human Rights Alaa Al-Armouti, the use of the term "repressed" is unfair because it could be associated with repressive measures such as torture, which is not true in the case of Jordan, although there have been unlawful arrests of citizens. This drop in ranking does not reflect reality since it contradicts rankings in other democracy indexes, he said.

The Civicus Monitor has designated the state of civil space in Iraq and Egypt as “closed”, Israel and the US as “obstructed” and Turkey as “repressed”.

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