18 February 2003


Three journalists sentenced to prison terms

Incident details

Muhannad Mbeidin, Nasser Qamash, Roman Haddad


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(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to King Abdallah II of Jordan, RSF has protested the sentencing of three journalists to prison terms ranging from two to six months. On 17 February 2003, the journalists were found guilty of "libeling Islam's prophet and disparaging the dignity of the state". The organisation asked that the three "Al-Hilal" magazine journalists be pardoned and rehabilitated, that the suspension order against the weekly magazine be lifted and that legal proceedings for press law violations no longer be brought before the State Security Court.

"The severity of the verdict is excessive in view of the facts and tarnishes the Jordanian kingdom's image," emphasised RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. "The Penal Code amendments passed in 2001 have considerably lessened press freedom in the country and, for the first time, a publication has been shut down on the basis of these unfair laws. Moreover, it is inadmissible that press law violations are tried before a military court, where rulings cannot be appealed."

A contentious article, entitled "Aisha in the Prophet's Home", was published in the weekly "Al-Hilal"'s 14 January 2003 issue. The article, which was sexual in nature, described why the prophet preferred Aisha over his other wives. Its author, Muhannad Mbeidin, was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. "Al-Hilal" managing editor Roman Haddad was sentenced to two months' imprisonment and editor-in-chief Nasser Qamash was given a three-month sentence. The Military Court judge also ordered the suspension of "Al-Hilal" for a two-month period, as of 16 January, the date that copies of the weekly were first confiscated. The three journalists, who pleaded not guilty, have been jailed at Jweideh Prison since 16 January.


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