Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regrets that governments in the Middle East, especially Jordan and Bahrain, suppressed media criticism of a controversial proposal for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was unveiled at a conference this week in the Bahraini capital, Manama.
Billed as the “deal of the century” by US President Donald Trump, the economic aspects of the peace plan presented at the conference were much criticized in the Middle East, including Jordan, one the participant countries.
RSF has learned that at least three Jordanian journalists were prevented from publishing articles critical of the conference, two of whom work for the newspaper Al-Ghad.
One of them, Majed Tobeh, said in a Facebook post that he had described the peace plan as “science fiction” for the Palestinians but had not mentioned Jordan’s participation. The other Al-Ghad journalist, Jamil Nimri, had focused above all on the civilian resistance in the Palestinian territories and on the surge in the cost of living.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the editor of a Jordanian news website said the censorship came from the “security services,” which called the editors of many media outlets and told them not to publish anything “negative” about Jordan’s participation. He said he was also pressured into withdrawing a story reporting that Kuwait refused to attend.
“The Jordanian authorities should not intervene in the editorial content of the Jordanian media in order to limit what they publish about unpopular measures or political decisions,” RSF’s Middle East desk said. “The directives given to the media about how to cover this event reflect a desire to restrict the expression of opinions and debate, and they fuel the frustration felt by journalists.”
Several sources confirmed that media outlets in Bahrain received similar phone calls with instructions not to cover the conference critically.
Journalists’ unions in Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian territories that were opposed to the conference called for a boycott. As well as Jordan, the participants included the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Exceptionally, Bahrain allowed Israeli journalists to fly to Manama to cover the event.
Jordan is ranked 130th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
SOURCE: Noni Ghani, Reporters Without Borders, US Office, North America Communications Manager