Reblogged: Websites & the Press and Publication Law @ 7iber

Earlier today, 7iber.com published an article that I had contributed regarding the inclusion of internet websites under the definition of the press and publication law.

You can view the article in its original location here. Or, alternatively, continue to read it in this same post:

Websites and the Publication Law: The Hour’s Reality and What Should have Happened Instead

Perhaps the talk of the moment in the Jordanian blogosphere is the decision of the Court of Cassation of Jordan (also known as the Supreme Court) [1] to categorize Internet websites as a type of “publication” thus extending the controversial Press and Publication Law to govern websites as well. The decision was met with fierce opposition in the Jordanian Blogosphere; the Jordanian free and alternative media was now to be under the same governing legislation that many believe brought Jordan’s traditional media to its supposed demise. Indeed, it is a common view that the Press and Publication Law restricts journalists in exploring alternative news sources, as well as voicing their opinions freely in editorials.

The Court’s ruling, however, occurred in a different light. The ruling was a result of a court case by journalist Ahmad Salameh, currently an advisor for the crown prince of Bahrain, against Samir al-Hiari and Sakher Abu `Antara, who operate Internet news websites, over a case of public defamation. [3]

(See Ammon’s article on Salameh’s case against Omar Kallab, listing Salameh’s accusations against Mr. Kallab as well as the Ammon website: http://www.ammonnews.net/article.aspx?articleNO=13047)

The ‘Press and Publication Law’ provides clear anti-defamation codes for journalists, and thus was used by Salameh to argue for his case. In that case, the writers as well as the editor-in-chief of the publication are accountable; and false information or personal attacks on individuals are prohibited. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and the verdict was appealed until reaching the Court of Cassation, which had to establish whether the basis of the case was lawful to begin with, and thus, establish whether the Press and Publication Law can be a governing document for articles on the internet.

Supporters of the ruling also view ramifications in the same light: writers on the internet are accountable to what they say, baseless attacks are prohibited, and information integrity is promoted.

While such view is well-founded, supporters are perhaps oblivious to the other ramifications of using the law as it stands to websites. For instance, the law prohibits writings offensive to religion, prophets, or other people, which might prove to hinder some of the healthy debate going on.

Continue reading “Reblogged: Websites & the Press and Publication Law @ 7iber”

Camp Chapman attack and the Blame Game

The Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate, a rather mysterious intelligence organization, is becoming the subject of much talk post the Camp Chapman attack, occurring on December 30th, 2009.

People are shocked that the suicide bomber responsible for the attack came into the base without the routine security measures. The attacker, currently identified by the CIA and western sources as Humam al-Balawi (though Jordanians call for more investigation), is responsible for the death of eight, among them Sharif Ali bin Zeid, a GID official.

U.S. sources say that al-Balawi was a Jordanian “double agent”, initially an extremist Islamist sympathetic to al-Qaeda, but ‘turned’ into a GID “agent” and informant. Taliban-related sources call him a “triple agent”, who was ultimately motivated to serve Taliban/al-Qaeda.

As such, public opinion of the of the GID, or, “the Jordanians”, as they are referred to, is becoming more negative. Many with little background on the history of GID-CIA anti-terrorism cooperation would call for less trust by the CIA/Americans towards the GID/Jordanians.

UPI states, however, that Jordanian officials stress that al-Balawi was not a Jordanian agent, but instead a trusted informant. Supposedly, al-Balawi has had a history of reporting reliable data. As such, the GID vouched for his integrity (information wise).

Nevertheless, should the GID be embarrassed? Sure. They do hold part of the responsibility; they probably didn’t watch al-Balawi as closely as they should’ve.

However, saying the CIA should be more questioning of GID contributions would do more harm than good.

David Ignatius, Washington Post journalist and author of “Body of Lies”, clarifies that the CIA probably should have been more weary of its own protocols. CBS News states that – in many ways – it was the CIA’s own problem that it let down its guard.

So why do I say that questioning GID contributions to the global operations against worldwide terrorism is harmful? Well, because the GID has, in the past, proved to be an invaluable source. Jordanian intelligence was responsible for thwarting the millennium attack plots, warning the CIA about the 9/11 attacks, etc.

The GID also are acclaimed worldwide for their intelligence abilities. David Ignatius mentions a CIA offer who said “He set the standard for how we do it”, of Sa`ad Kheir, a former GID official. Also referenced by Ignatius is George Tenet, former CIA director, saying the GID was the most helpful intelligence service against al-Qaeda.

Some Jordanians or Arabs might be discomforted by what I say, because they might view my apparent approval of “GID-CIA cooperation” as a sign of blind pro-Westernism, or going against ‘Arabism’, our culture, or political causes. As such, I’ll make it clear that the reason I approve of such ‘cooperation’ is because – as far as I understand, currently – the nature of such cooperation revolves around fighting worldwide terrorism. We Jordanians fell victim of the November 9th attacks in 2005, orchestrated by al-Qaeda-Middle East and al-Zarqawi. So, we should especially understand that, when it comes to networks such as al-Qaeda or Taliban, or attack plots that can endanger the lives of civilians, we have a human responsibility to cooperate with whoever capable to combat it.

Why Jordan’s Reputation in the Region might not Improve

… unless something changes, that is.

And its a general PR mess that I’m talking about here, not actions.

I was in the process of writing an article about the recent attack in Camp Chapman that killed Shareef Ali Bin Zeid, a senior GID official, along with several CIA agents in the base. In the meantime, I noticed that Naseem Tarawnah, had already written up a post about the issue. Instead of writing a virtually duplicate post, I decided to follow the comments there, and a separate idea formed; Jordan is sometimes so sensitive about possibly appearing pro-Western that it chooses silence, denials, or bogus arguments that end up hurting their reputation among Arab states, not retain it.

It is indeed depressing that apparently, King Abdullah’s vision of transparency – while it applies to the government – doesn’t apply when the names “Israel” or the “U.S.” come to play. Which is a shame, really. Because I think if the government was in full disclosure of some of these facts (ones that do not play into issues of national security, of course), only few would contest the actions of the government.

As mentioned in the comments over at Naseem’s blog, fighting terrorism, al-Qaeda, and Taliban is a legitimate cause that 90% (if not more) of the Arabs would agree to. If Jordanian spokespersons were as frank as Wikipedia, for instance,  was with me, telling me that Jordanian GID officials only went to the CIA base to deliver Humam Khalil al-Balawi, who claimed to have information about the location of Ayman al Zawahiri ,then most would be content! Instead, when the issue broke, no official source spoke of the CIA-GID connection, that many assumed the GID itself was somehow a ‘follower’ or a ‘subset’ of the CIA, and assumed also that the “connection” was somehow at a functional level (which would be scandalous), instead of an operational level (which is acceptable, especially in cases of combating global terrorism networks). Instead of receiving facts that would’ve made me examine things in an unbiased way, I only heard rumors, assumptions, and weasel words, and I was armed with no information to fight back with.

And if Humam al-Balawi is indeed the bomber, then don’t be ashamed because he’s a Jordanian. Did we forget al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian as well? Its fine to have one or two terrorists out of 6.5 million. And if the government is just ashamed because they vouched for al-Balawi, then how about just blame the CIA for not searching him or something?

But, here’s an interesting quote, pasted from Wikipedia:

Jordanian government officials, while acknowledging that al-Balawi was a Jordanian doctor, insisted that there was no proof that the suicide bomber was a Jordanian. They pointed to contradictory reports, including a statement from Afghan Taliban that claimed the attacker was an Afghan. A Jordanian official living abroad said that al-Balawi would not have been a double agent, and stated he was a sometime contact of the Jordanian intelligence who had no formal role as an intelligence officer. (source)

So I won’t jump into conclusions that it is indeed al-Balawi; it can be people from al-Qaeda or Taliban who tracked him and decided to stop him from leaking information or whatever. Still, the official story needs to shift from strict denial to something more informative.

This whole issue reminds me of Mohammad Hassanein Haikal’s saga, in which he bashed Jordan over and over, and it took weeks, if nor a month or so, for Zaid al-Rifa`i to come up with an answer. And that’s what kills me, we have the answers! 90% of the time, facts are on the Jordanians’ side. Our PR still messes up, comes up with little answers, and is reluctant to share the very information that will vindicate us!

Today, a spokesperson released some clarifications, and I think that’s satisfactory on some level, information-wise. But how far reaching is a late response?

Jordan and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

While Jordan engages in normalization with Israel, it does not engage in neutralization. Please, do not confuse the two; the feelings, emotions, views, and motivations of the Jordanian people and their leadership remain the same: in full support of the Palestinians, we discovered, however, that our pro-Palestinian message and efforts are best conveyed in an atmosphere of peace and dialogue.

This one has been on my mind for a while. The current political situation in the Middle East is one of the topics I’m truly interested in, and I’ve been writing numerous posts related to the issue. One thing that caught me attention was that I was addressing a lot of Arab concerns against Israel and its regime (which I firmly believe in), and in so forgot to address my personal concerns about Arabic politics when it comes to the conflict.

I also decided to write this after a long conversation I had with a friend (whose also Arab) who believes that Jordanian politics regarding the issue, especially the 1994 Wadi `Araba Treaty, indicates that Jordan (or the government/king) has – in a sense – betrayed The Cause and other Arab countries.

I think that’s a completely wrong approach, and I believe the truth is that Jordan is a pioneer in seeking peace, and a Just Solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Had other Arab countries followed Jordan’s footsteps in large, then Arabs would’ve done their part in promoting a just peace, and stability in the region would’ve been a much more probable reality.

Since I think such belief that Jordan went against the Palestinian Cause (and Pan-Arab Values, fraternity, and unity) is utterly misconceived on numerous levels, I find it hard to find where to start. This is why I’ll divide the post into separate arguments that will hopefully complement each other.

(The outline is basically as follows: 1: Jordan was not alone in pursuing peace in the 1990’s, 2: Jordan did not go against Palestine, 3: While Jordan has peace, Jordan is not a neutral nation, 4: Other Cases of Jordanian Commitment to the Pan-Arab Cause).

1) Jordan was not alone in pursuing peace in the 1990’s

King Hussein of Jordan had Middle East peace aspirations even before the war of 1967. That did not stop him, or the country, from being properly aligned with the Arabs in the war of 1967, where Jordan, lead by King Hussein, entered a full-force war against Israel, and lost a considerable amount of land from the West Bank, which, at the time, was part of the Kingdom of Jordan. (Many people have doubts about Hussein’s intentions in the 1967 war, these will be discussed in future articles). As a matter of fact, while King Hussein talked to Israelis (as did Egyptian, Lebanese, and Syrian officials), he only allowed such talks to translate into a treaty much later on.

While Anwar El-Sadat was alone in signing a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, King Hussein’s 1994 treaty happened in a different light that Arabs of today forget: Continue reading “Jordan and the Arab-Israeli Conflict”

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