Shall we put to an end to our losses?

Fahed Khitan (Photo: Jordan News)
AS we are embracing a political and economic reform plan, we need to close some outstanding files, especially regarding the accusations voiced internally and abroad over excessive restrictions on the public freedoms. These have started to cast shadows on Jordan’s reputation. اضافة اعلان

Days ago, the King had to intervene personally following the conviction of a young woman for violating Article 195 of the Penal Code: the lèse-majesté provision. The Court of Appeal responded by accelerating the proceedings and issued its ruling, acquitting the young woman.

No one has the right to interfere in the work of the judiciary and judges are obliged to hand down the sentences as stipulated in the law. In an age of openness and a digital communication revolution, it is too difficult for authorities to chase violators and keep a record of breaches of the law. 

The most convenient solution is to keep the aforementioned provision as part of the code, while restricting its enforcement to the minimum, namely to the cases when the violations to the article become a threat to stability, or part of an orchestrated campaign aimed to undermine the status and person of the King. 

There are now a number of detainees under trial for lèse-majesté, and others have been freed on bail, awaiting the hearings. These cases should be revisited and settled, especially those involving persons who were convicted and jailed. 

On the sidelines of the protests that took place weeks ago, some people were detained without trial. These should be bailed or their cases closed once and for all. We should give them a chance to go back to their normal lives, and live under the umbrella of the law.  

The margin of freedom of expression in Jordan has always been broad, and open for all, even those who used to cross the lines. That constitutes Jordan’s source of strength, and has been considered a manifestation of self-confidence on the part of the state institutions and their ability to adapt to the massive changes the world is witnessing. 

Communities globally are suffering from excessive violations on social media platforms and they already struggle with the grave consequences of the spread of hate speech, disdain of others, fake news, and the undermining of people’s dignity and reputation. We have to keep up with the global debate on this issue, and the efforts exerted to protect social media platforms in a way that they can play the positive role we expect from them. At the current stage, however, the only thing we can do is to fight back against bigotry, populism, and lies with all the available means, until the world redefines its relationship with these platforms.  

Given its history, Jordan is able to absorb the loud voices and engage in a dialogue with these individuals that would calm them down and eventually bring them into mainstream politics. During the peak of the Arab Spring, His Majesty personally engaged in long discussions with different political groups, and went into debate with the most extremist among them. All left the meetings more admiring of the King and more trusting of the state and its institutions. 

There is another issue that also needs a fair settlement, which is the outstanding file of the Teachers Association that is still being seen by the judiciary. All hope for a fair and just solution, which guarantees that justice is served on the one hand and does not, on the other, leave us without such a national achievement; i.e., the largest professional syndicate in the country. Settling this issue is also possible.

Such cases and others have been sources of crisis at the political and social levels. The harm done is much more the benefit gained, so let us bring an end to the losses and step into a new stage with a different approach, one that brings us closer, not far apart.

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