Journalists, activists call for limiting gag orders in public interest cases

shutterstock gag Experts fear government’s regulation of social media will restrict freedoms
(File photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN Journalists and human rights activists have renewed calls to limit the number of gag orders imposed on media outlets, especially with regard to cases that concern public opinion, according to Al-Mamlaka TV. اضافة اعلان

Since the beginning of this year, the public prosecutor has issued gag orders in four separate cases, justifying his decision by the need “to preserve the integrity of the investigation and preserve the public interest”.

Lawmakers have increased the penalty for those who violate the ban by replacing the fine of JD5 to JD25 with three months in prison for anyone who violates Article 225 of the Penal Code.

A specialist in media laws, Yahya Shukair, said that news about crimes and dignitaries are hot topics in demand by the public. He urged the government and lawmakers to strike a balance between the right to inform the public and serving justice.

Shukair added that in some cases, a total ban to publish could do more harm than benefit, by creating an environment fertile for rumors, especially on social media platforms where no one follows the ethics of the journalistic profession.

“The stage of investigation, inference, and evidence gathering is a confidential process in all countries of the world,” Shukair said.

He added that there are four laws in Jordan that regulate publication of news, including the Press and Publications Law, which makes clear that “publication is prohibited during the investigation stage, unless the public prosecutor lifts the ban”.

He called on public prosecutors to provide journalists with a briefing every two days because this is in the public interest.

“When the case moves to the stage of reading the indictment, the publication ban end and the trial becomes public according to Article 101 of the Jordanian Constitution,” Shukair said. “Publishing court minutes and witnesses statements, is permissible, if the court does not decide against it in order to preserve the rights of the individual, the family and public order,” he added noting that the Press and Publications Law applies to licensed newspapers and websites, while the Penal Code applies to everyone.

Member of the Jordan Press Association Council Khaled Al-Qudah told Al-Mamlaka TV that “the first to pay the price in gag order decisions is society by depriving it of information, and journalists by depriving them of their role to inform the public and influence public opinion through trusted and reliable information.”

Acting commissioner at the National Center for Human Rights Nahla Momani told Al-Mamlaka TV that “the expansion of gag orders decisions affects the right of people to access information either through the media or as individuals.” She added that gag orders that are unjustified push people to listen to and circulate rumors or resort to external sources to obtain the information.

Muhammad Qutaishat, who is a lawyer specializing in publication cases, pointed out that “the publication ban during investigations conducted in general is a confirmation of the state of confidentiality imposed by law.

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