Human Rights Watch yesterday criticised the Jordanian authorities' decision to limit media coverage of its decision to close the Jordanian Teachers' Syndicate issued on 25 July and to arrest 13 of its members pending investigation.
HRW said in a statement that in August it interviewed eight Jordanian and foreign journalists who said that over the past few years they have been subjected to increasing restrictions on press coverage in the form of gag orders, harassment by the security forces, and the withholding of media permits.
The statement quoted journalist and women's rights activist Rana Husseini as saying that "these are preemptive moves. I self-censor before I write on many occasions. They have to allow for more press freedom."
We are hesitant sometimes to express our opinions and on some certain occasions cannot address issues that matter to the public. They should allow us to operate freely – or everything will sound like it is coming out a government mouthpiece.
The rights group stressed that the Jordanian Ministry of Justice and the public prosecutor's office should ensure that the gag orders are clearly limited to the content of investigations and are not used to prevent public debate on sensitive issues.
"Jordan's cynical exploitation of arbitrary measures such as gag orders and arrests to silence journalists is only the latest in a series of restrictions on press freedoms in the country," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW.
"Jordan will not solve its myriad of economic and political problems by cracking down on journalists and limiting free speech," he added.
On 25 July, 13 members of the Teachers' Union Council were arrested by the Public Prosecutor after a decision by the Attorney General to suspend the union's work and close its headquarters for two years.
Earlier, about 2,000 teachers marched near their union headquarters in the capital Amman. They demanded the government abide by an agreement signed with the union last October regarding salaries and other issues.
The Jordanian Teachers' Union was founded in 2011. It has around 140,000 affiliated members.