Jordan jails former deputy for ‘false news’

Ahmad Oweidi al-Abbadi A critic of Jordan’s royal family was sentenced to two years in jail on Tuesday for sending e-mails abroad that the court ruled to be carrying "false news" and harmful to the dignity of the state. The verdict against after a two-month trial, comes at a time that human rights groups are voicing concern about what they call an official clampdown on the media. Judicial sources said Abbadi, a right wing former deputy, was found guilty on three charges of undermining state dignity, publishing "false news" on e-mails sent to foreign figures and illegally distributing leaflets. Abbadi had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Before his arrest, Abbadi had stepped up criticism of Jordan’s royal family and accused top officials of corruption on a Web site he ran. Supporters said he had sent an e-mail to U.S. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid decrying what he called a steep rise in official corruption. Source: [MSNBC]

Although I disagree with the ideologies disseminated by Jordanian National Movement leader Ahmad Oweidi al-Abbadi, I was dismayed to see that he received a two-year sentence for carrying "false news." Here is what Human Rights Watch has said about Abbadi’s case:

"The only reason al-Abbadi languishes in jail waiting for his court verdict is that he’s a government opponent exercising his right to free speech," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division.

This is yet another step in Jordan’s moves against free expression, right alongside Jordan’s announcement last month that it would be monitoring online sites. Not to mention that all this is happening while the fate of Jordan’s first independent TV station is hanging in the balance. The sad reality nowadays is that Jordan is taking step after step backwards when it comes to the freedom of the press. I’m of the opinion that for democracy to prevail in any place, the press must be free. Sadly, this is not the case in my home country.

It is also worth nothing, that Abbadi’s accusations of official corruption in the Kingdom came shortly before Jordan was named as a country facing a disturbing increase in corruption according to the Transparency International scale.

8 Comments

  1. Solomon2 October 10, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    “harmful to the dignity of the state”? Good grief, American dignity is under attack every day and the reality is we haven’t done too badly. Maybe if Jordan was subject to such criticism for long enough the country could someday attain America’s level of respectability.

    Reply
  2. The Observer October 11, 2007 at 2:10 am

    I totally agree with you. While I hated what this guy was saying on his website and the hatred speech he advocates, I hate what the government is doing to silent those who disagree with them!

    “harmful to the dignity of the state”

    What a stupid excuse for restriction our freedom of speech??! It is what they are doing that is harmful to the dignity of our state! Just read what Human rights offical says!

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  3. Musa October 11, 2007 at 5:03 am

    Natasha,
    Please do not fall into the trap of believing that AlAbbadi is a “free speech” victim.

    Jordan suffers from severe free speech suppression and that is a fact, that we all should be trying to fight against. But this character in particular, is simply trying to use the “no free argument” to fulfill his deviant ambitions. AlAbbadi is a notorious racist and an egotistical maniac who truly believes he is the most important personality in Jordan.

    Again, he is trying to use “our” forums (our, as in people who care about free speech)to make a name for himself on the international circuit as an opposition leader,where in reality the guy is a bonafide straight-up IDIOT . The “National Movement” that he presides is a thing of his imagination, and his rumor-based approach in criticising the Royal family serves a completely opposite purpose, since it portrays the false image that any opposition to the need-to-improve Jordanian regime is simply coming from twisted and ridiculous people of the Abbadi type.

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  4. The Informer October 11, 2007 at 7:16 am

    Likely all true Musa, but standing by and allowing the suppression of freedom is a slippery slope. Anyone believing in democracy and free speech should remember that though you may not like the words or actions said by others, you must defend them else there may come a time when your words or actions are at issue and there is no one there to come forward for you.

    There are often rabble-rousers waiting in the wings, doing their well best to abuse the freedoms others have fought for and cherish. Although their usage may be abusive and we may not like them we cannot allow government an opportunity to suppress them because of the corrosive nature of such an action. It is not long before other actions are regarded as “harmful to the dignity of the state.” Soon, people and politicians trot out comments like “our nation is young, our people incapable of understanding and respecting these freedoms; such restrictions are necessary.” It’s a dangerous thing, allowing government to curtail freedoms. It’s a long road to get them back.

    I’m sure you know the poem from a Christian priest, but it bears repeating:

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    For I was not a communist.

    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    For I was not a social democrat.

    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak;
    For I was not a trade unionist.

    When they came for the Jews,
    I remained silent;
    For I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for the Catholics,
    I didn’t speak;
    For I was a Protestant.

    Then they came for me,
    but by that time there was no one left to speak for me.

    Reply
  5. Ayman October 11, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Natasha I agree.

    To Musa – it doesn’t matter what we think of the guy or whether or not we agree with him. He should be free to say whatever he wants. Don’t you think that the majority of people would dismiss his hateful message? I think that by restricting his speech we unintentionally overestimate the importance of his message. So the government is wrong to give him any attention what so ever. To me what is more dangerous is the fact that he was jailed for several months (since May or June?) before his trial date!

    Solomon2 – Not sure if things in the U.S will be too different than 3rd world countries if things continue at this rate. What I mean is that criticism of the policies of the current administration (especially the war in Iraq and soon IRAN!) is automatically equated to treason, disrespect to the troops, or are at least weakness. Also, look at our record in treating “suspects” and bending not only our rules but international rules when it comes to torture.

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  6. Abed October 11, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    i am opposed to Abbadi’s punishment because it’s for the wrong reason. for years Abbadi was permitted by the regime to spew forth Nazi-like statements fomenting division and hate within Jordanian society. the government stood by and did nothing. but when he started to bad mouth powerful individuals, suddenly he is a bad guy. he was more useful to them when he was contributing to widening divisions within Jordanian society, which took the attention away from regime failures and corruption. but now he joined the anti-corruption chorus (i doubt the sincerity of his intentions) he becomes persona non grata.

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  7. munther October 15, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Well, after all, the freedom of speech begins at home. It is a social consensus, not a set of government measures. Until we reach that social contract whereby the individual (starting from within the family structure) can have the self-confidence to freely express himself, we can call for a government that represents such a pattern. We always ignore the root causes of a problem until this problem gets bigger and bigger and we look for someone to blame it on. Thats one thing. The other thing is that the national security of any country tops any other priority. after all, it is stability that is enabling Jordan to survive in a sea of chaos.

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  8. jareer October 20, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    And what is Abbadi’s website? can someone tell me here, please? Thanks

    Reply

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