Envoy’s tweet on media freedoms triggers diplomatic tiff

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates
(File photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates issued a statement on Thursday underlining its rejection of comments made by the Dutch Ambassador to Jordan Harry Verweij regarding his meeting, on October 18, with Minister of State for Media Affairs Faisal Shboul. اضافة اعلان

Verweij tweeted on October 18 that his meeting with Shboul was an opportunity to discuss the media scene in Jordan. He added that he had raised concerns regarding the shrinking civic space and media freedoms in Jordan, and expressed “our concerns on Jordan’s declining international ranking on freedom of speech”.

The ministry’s statement, also posted on Twitter, said that what was supposed to take place was a courtesy meeting between the two sides, but that, surprisingly, the ambassador interfered in a radio licensing application for a non-Jordanian and non-Dutch person, an issue that should be dealt with according to laws and regulations, and with full transparency, adding that it is incomprehensible that an ambassador representing a friendly country should interfere in such a case.

The ministry expressed its rejection of what it described as interference in Jordan’s internal affairs, but said that it is open to “frank dialogue ... Through diplomatic channels and direct contacts”.

Reactions to the Dutch ambassador’s statements came from outside Jordan as well. On October 20, the Emirati ministry of foreign affairs issued a statement saying that it had summoned the Dutch ambassador in Abu Dhabi and “informed him of the state’s strong protest and denunciation ... Over the interference in Jordan’s internal affairs”.

The UAE’s foreign ministry described the statements of the Dutch ambassador in Jordan as “irresponsible and outside diplomatic norms,... which are a blatant interference in Jordan’s internal affairs.”

As local media outlets and social media platforms covered reactions to this unprecedented diplomatic tiff, Community Media Network (CMN) in Amman issued a statement on Thursday acknowledging that there had been posts and statements, which it characterized as “not accurate”, that indirectly involved CMN/Radio al Balad and AmmanNet.

The statement said that the organization had been contacted more than a year ago by the Dutch CEO of Ref FM (refugees FM), an organization that helps establish nonpolitical radio stations aimed at refugees. The CEO asked CMN whether it would be willing to work together to set up a station targeting Syrian refugees in Zaatari camp, the network said.

CMN said it had contacted all relevant parties in Mafraq, from humanitarian, and local leadership to security personnel. They all welcomed the idea, according to the statement. It added that CMN Director General Daoud Kuttab, and COO, Etaf Roudan, who also runs Radio al Balad, approached the director of the Media Commission, Tariq Abu Raghib, to inquire initially if he thought the idea would work. “He enthusiastically welcomed the idea and encouraged us to apply. We also contacted Media Affairs Minister Shboul who likewise encouraged us to apply,” according to the statement.

“We applied, prepared all needed documents, made the necessary cash deposits, and waited. For months we received no answer to a request to establish a small 200-watt humanitarian nonpolitical station solely for refugees,” according to the statement.

“Finally in recent weeks we re-ceived a verbal answer from the Media Commission that a committee had rejected our proposal. We asked for a letter to this effect, but we were told no letter would be coming,” the statement said.

“We naturally informed our partners who have contacted the ambassador. We didn’t participate in the meeting of the (Dutch) ambassador with the media minister — learned about it from social media,” the statement concluded.

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