17 January 2003


Three journalists arrested for displaying "disrepect for Islam", weekly newspaper suspended

Incident details

Muhamad Mbaidhin, Nasser Qamash, Roman Haddad

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(RSF/IFEX) - On 17 January 2003, RSF denounced the Jordanian government's suspension of the weekly "Al-Hilal" and the arrest of three of the newspaper's journalists for an article that allegedly insulted Islam.

"How does this [offending article] require the paper's indefinite suspension and the arrest of these journalists?" asked RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. "There are other ways to apply the press law provisions if they were, in fact, contravened," he noted. Ménard added that "it is very disappointing for civil liberty organisations to see the Jordanian authorities taking advantage of the post-September 11 situation to become increasingly repressive."

On 16 January, the country's military prosecutor ordered the newspaper's suspension and the arrest of editor Nasser Qamash, senior assistant editor Roman Haddad and Muhamad Mbaidhin, the author of the article, which was considered disrespectful to the Prophet Mohammed's family.

The official Jordanian news agency Petra has reported that the journalists will remain in detention for two weeks as part of the inquiry into the controversy. They have been charged with "harming the government and the dignity of the people" and "destabilising society by printing alleged perversity and false news".

The offending article, which appeared in the newspaper's 14 January edition, was entitled "Aisha in the Prophet's Home: God Kept Flies Off Her Body" (ed. note: Aisha was Mohammed's favourite wife). All copies of the newspaper were seized.


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