When a group of journalists turned up to cover a pro-democracy protest in Amman on July 15th, the public security department gifted them with bright orange vests marked ‘Press’ to wear, so that policemen would not confuse them with other protestors in case fighting broke out.But, at least 10 journalists were injured as baton-wielding policeman attacked pro-democracy supporters and members of the media.“The Orange Vest Trap” read a headline of an Amman electronic news website, reflecting the widely -held view that the police department led journalists into a set-up to carry out the assault.Sami Mahasneh, a Jordanian reporter, was among the injured. The attack left his hand-bones shattered and he now requires a complicated surgery. He plans to sue the assailants who were photographed by his colleagues during the attack.He’s not the only one. The Jordan Press Association, which said the orange-vest strategy was nothing more than a trap, has said it plans to sue the country's police department.The attack reflects rising hostility inside the state’s institutions against members of Jordanian and Arab media.Deliberately targeted While the Jordanian government was quick to announce that the beatings did not represent its official policy, its constant failure to protect journalists from security-backed thugs has served to increase incitement.The last attack, however, is unprecedented in that journalists were not just caught in the midst of clashes, but were deliberately targeted in the area that was assigned to them by the public security department.At a meeting prior to the Friday demonstration, foreign and local journalists were told that the police would provide protection to and ensure their safety.According to eyewitnesses, as soon as the skirmishes started, the security quickly turned on those donning the orange-vests and began beating them with clubs.Predictably, Hussein Majali, the Head of the Public Security Department, insisted there was no prior decision to attack journalists. The commanders acted alone, he claimed. If Majali’s statement proves correct, it would mean that members of the police force have come to see the Jordanian press as an enemy for simply reporting on anti-government protests that have been taking place over the last seven months.Journalists an easy target for anti-reform forcesThe promise of a government investigation, the detention of four of the accused policemen involved and threats of legal action have done little to appease Jordan’s media community, which held another protest on July 17 condemning the attack.The increasing concern is that journalists are becoming the easiest target for anti-reform forces in the country.The assault on journalists is part of an ongoing struggle between forces of reform and the forces, inside that outside the Jordanian regime, vehemently resisting changes to the system.Demands for political freedoms are being stalled though violence. At the same time, Jordanian political parties and journalists have been calling for an end to security and intelligence intervention in the local media and the intimidation of journalists and editors.Emboldened by the Arab Spring and Jordanian anti-government protests, the media has been publishing highly critical reports of the government and exposing rampant corruption.While the Jordanian government has not moved directly to silence journalists, it has largely left its work to undercover thugs and, at times, the security forces to attack journalists and international media offices.The office of the French news agency AFP was recently targeted and its furniture and equipment destroyed by thugs wielding stones and clubs. The car of one Al Jazeera’s correspondents was damaged while another, the Bureau Chief Yasser Abu Hilaleh, was beaten during last Friday’s assault.Journalists unconvinced and undeterredJournalists are not and cannot be convinced that forces inside the government, or at least the upper echelons of the security, are not responsible for the brutal force inflicted upon them and their freedoms.First of all, Friday’s attack was not the first time police have struck journalists. The security, accompanied by thugs in civilian clothes, attacked a group of journalists on March 25th as they broke up a sit-in and again on May 15th during a rally in support of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homeland.Secondly, the government, security and intelligence departments have created a hostile atmosphere against protesters and journalists by organising “loyalty rallies”. This insinuates that those who participate in opposition demonstrations and journalists who write critical reports are not “loyal” and therefore deemed “unpatriotic”.Thirdly, the resignation last month of Taher Adwan, the former information minister, in objection to a draft law that aimed at curtailing press freedom and criminalising journalists, is a telling development in which direction the government intends to move.Journalists in Jordan, however, are fighting back and are no longer fearful of the security agencies or the government officials. If anything the last attack served to expose the security, embarrassed the government and has galvanized support for the local press and the media. Protests look set to continue, with one more planned for another Friday in July. Jordanians, including all political parties and professional associations, are going back to the streets—this time in support of the freedom of the press.
Jordan’s hostility towards media
Jordan’s hostility towards media
The attack on journalists in Jordan by security forces has raised fears that the media is increasingly seen as an easy target by anti-reform forces.