Archive for the 'Jordan' Category

Apr 11 2016

Tax havens and journalistic work

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By Daoud Kuttab

Some five years ago, a lawyer working for the Panama-based Mossak Fonseca leaked a trove of documents exposing the identity of the owners of a large number of offshore companies registered in Jersey, the British Islands and Luxemburg.

This massive leak led to the German government’s closing three banks it deemed had violated German law and the case stopped there.

But the leaker was not satisfied and decided to make a second effort. Around a year ago, some 11 million documents including e-mails, company registrations and other sensitive documents were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutche Zeitung.

The Munich-based newspaper realised that to make use of this leak, it needed an international effort.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) was asked to help and the largest journalistic effort was launched: 330 journalists from around the world were contacted and asked to participate in the follow up to this leak with conditions. Continue Reading »

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Apr 03 2016

Jordan’s way of dealing with terrorists

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By Daoud Kuttab

After every horrific act of violent extremism we are inundated with right-wing incitement against followers of a major religion and, often from the West, with calls to use the Israeli approach in combating terrorism.

Very little effort is made by pundits to actually dig deeper and think of a more appropriate and effective approach to this disease without compromising human values.

A look at the Jordanian model reveals a strategy that has proved to be effective in keeping the country safe without resorting to heavy-handed and wildly restrictive actions that often do more long-term harm.

Jordan’s methodology in dealing with the scourge of violent extremism and terror is largely preventative. It stems from the need to have a good idea about some of the extreme members of the society and work diligently through different means to contain and weaken them, as well as making the red lines crystal clear.

The Jordanian model is focused. It depends much on human intelligence efforts focused on the individuals that are believed to pose a particular threat, rather than on an entire group or community. Continue Reading »

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Mar 10 2016

Losing post-Arab Spring accomplishments?

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By Daoud Kuttab

The Independent Federation of Unions in Jordan wanted to hold an event to celebrate International Women’s Day. A hotel hall was booked and invitations were sent out. A few hours before the event organisers were told by the hotel management that they could not hold the event.

It seems that a security official had called the hotel management and ordered them not to allow the event to take place unless the organisers get permission.

When pressed, the hotel director said that the call came from the intelligence department and he gave the organisers the nom de guerre of the officer.

This was not a fluke, one-off interference in activities of civil society.

In the last month alone, tens of non-governmental organisations were surprised by the return to heavy-handed intelligence services interference in public activities, training workshops, conferences and other public events that have been held without intervention for years.

An event by Himam, a local NGO committee coordinating government officials with international donors, was ordered cancelled, only to be allowed after high-level intervention. Continue Reading »

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Feb 17 2016

Gas and the people of Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

After 90 minutes of powerful anti-Israeli speeches by 18 members of Parliament, Deputy Speaker Mustapha Amawi called the session over because of lack of quorum.

The speakers were incensed by the fact that Jordan and the American Noble Energy Company signed a letter of intent to import gas from the Israeli Leviathan field in the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaker after speaker explained that Jordan today is no longer in need of this deal, after having built a liquid gas seaport in Aqaba and working on building the Basra-Aqaba pipeline to import Iraq oil and gas.

Furthermore, parliamentarians insisted that today’s oil prices, hovering at around $30 a barrel, are different from what they were a few years ago. Oil was over $100 a barrel and the Egyptian gas pipe was blown up every other week, causing Jordan to have to use much more expensive alternatives to generate electricity. Continue Reading »

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Feb 08 2016

Guest workers in Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

The preliminary results of the national census in Jordan show that Syrian refugees number around 1.3 million.

Along with other nationalities, non-Jordanians now compose what amounts to 31 per cent of the total population.

Of the 9.5 million people living in Jordan, 6.6 million are Jordanian citizens, according to the Census Bureau.

We are told by the census commission that among non-Jordanians, 634,000 are Palestinians. It is not clear if these Palestinians are the displaced Gazans who made it to Jordan in 1967 and who, unlike their West Bank brethren, never had Jordanian citizenship or if this number includes Palestinian passport holders who are living and working in Jordan, or both.

In addition to Syrians and Palestinians, Jordan today is also home to some 390,000 Egyptian (the real number is most likely higher because many are without work permits and probably avoided the census). There are also 130,000 Iraqis, 31,000 Yemenis and 23,000 Libyans.

These numbers are a clear indication of the depth of the economic difficulties that Jordan is facing as a result of its policy to host Arab refugees and will certainly play a role in the conference on Syrian refugees that will take place in London today. Continue Reading »

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Jan 21 2016

When tribal law supersedes civil law

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By Daoud Kuttab

A murder took place in Jordan. The suspected killer is known, but unlike in normal cases, this time it was addressed by tribal law.

Tribal law is not new in Jordan. It has existed for centuries and the modern nation state has found ways to accommodate it.

Civil courts have often been presented with cases of conflicts that had been initially resolved in a tribal manner and used such decisions to make their final resolution.

But when tribal law replaces civil law and when such a decision involves members of the government, one has to take a clear position.

The deputy prime minister and minister of education headed on January 15 a delegation of dignitaries with the aim of soothing the anger of one of Jordan’s communities in the south.

As part of the atwa (tribal agreement), the deputy prime minister and his delegation signed a document that violates Jordan’s Constitution, laws and treaties.

The agreement, signed by Minister Mohammad Thneibat, declares without trial the guilt of the suspected killer, decides capital punishment for him and vows not to pursue any effort for clemency for him. Continue Reading »

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Jan 14 2016

Knowledge helps creating an enabling environment for change in Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

Behavioural experts have been studying what makes people change the way they think and work. Change management has become a popular field people are trying to figure out how to operate and refine.

Some argue that societal change needs to begin at the bottom and rise to the top, while others insist that only a few elite persons can effect change and, therefore, it needs to take place at the top and work its way down.

In all cases experts agree that for change to occur it requires an enabling environment that supports and rewards, rather than discourages and fights change.
A crucial element for change is the human element.

Change, however, is not always easy to accept. Resistance to change is often listed as one of the biggest obstacles that cause delays and sometimes the abortion of ambitious and strategic plans that require change.
People at the bottom as well as leaders often voluntarily or involuntarily become change obstructionists.

Obstructionists are usually ready to stop change with boilerplate formulas. It is coming from abroad, it does not fit our cultural way, it is against our values: these are some of the ready statements that delay and sometimes stop change. Continue Reading »

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Nov 18 2015

Religion should not be used to fight radicalism

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By Daoud Kuttab

In fighting the scourge of radicalism and religious fundamentalism, one of the strategies is to use religion.

Proponents of this approach vary from those who insist that Daesh and its ideology is simply built on a warped understanding of religion to those who say that the best way to fight religious fundamentalism is by promoting religious moderation as the effective way of combating dark and deadly ideology.

Both ideas have an inherent problem in them.

Playing the game of the radicals and terrorists is unlikely to solve anything.

The fact is that any religious text is easily amenable to interpretation, which means that anyone can find a text to support his/her position.

It is very easy to take a text out of context in order to support a particular point of view.

Yousef Rababaa, a Jordanian professor at Philadelphia University, north of Amman, argues forcefully against the efforts of Jordan TV to fight religious radicalism by using religion.

In an article recently published on AmmanNet, titled “Fighting radicalism with radicalism”, he argues that radicals will always win if you argue with them, simply on the basis of religious text. Continue Reading »

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Nov 04 2015

Resorting again to detaining journalists

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By Daoud Kuttab

The government, which has made slow but important progress in guaranteeing media freedoms, took a turn backwards.

The attorney general ordered on October 20 the detention of Osama Al Ramini, a member of the journalist syndicate and the owner of a licensed news website.

The act violates the country’s commitments.

Detaining journalists comes as a result of a loophole in the electronic crimes law.

The prime minister had earlier asked a governmental advisory body for the interpretation of Clause 11 of the recently amended electronic crimes law.

The Office of Interpretation, headed by Judge Hisham Al Tal, the president of the Judicial Council, responded on October 19 that the clause does allow the detention of a person accused of tort and slander on any electronic site; at the same time, the interpretation overrode clear clauses in the amended Press and Publications Law that forbid the detention of journalists.

The following day, the government ordered Ramini’s detention, causing an uproar among journalists, the syndicate and NGOs defending media.

The decision to detain a journalist is yet another blow to Jordan’s thriving electronic media, which has been growing steadily over years despite the continuous restrictions.

The same 2012 amended Press and Publications Law that guaranteed immunity to journalists from arrest for their views also stipulated that electronic news websites must be licensed just like the newspapers.

Nearly 300 unlicensed websites were blocked in June 2013 because of their violation of the controversial law.

The blocking of websites brought criticism of Jordan from relevant media rights groups locally and internationally. Local protests and an attempt to challenge the law in courts failed.

Publishers of electronic news sites that had complained about the new licensing scheme were told that by working for a licensed electronic publication, journalists and publishers will be protected from detention because they would automatically fall under the Press and Publications Law, which stipulates civil penalties but no detentions.

By being targeted for detention on accusations of slander, electronic journalists have been punished twice.

Having to adhere to the rigorous obligations of being licensed like a newspaper, including hiring an editor who is a four-year veteran member of the syndicate, electronic journalists are being negatively discriminated against by being detained before a judge can decide whether what they publish is slander or not.

The government decision to go after electronic journalists reflects a mentality that thinks it can deter all electronic media outlets by detaining journalists working for them.

This act is contrary to international commitments and it once again could break the trust between the government and the public.

When governments break their sacred promise to honour the right of the public to know and detain accredited journalists working for licensed news sites, they are attempting to muzzle the fourth estate.

The chilling effect of such detentions prevents professional journalists from doing their job, as they see that they are not protected even if they follow all the rules and regulations.

Jordan’s media scene was reviewed thoroughly this year by a UNESCO-appointed team that applied, for the review, the international organisations media index.

Some of the positive results highlighted by the report will most certainly be erased by the government decision to go after journalists in order to protect government officials or business people in bed with the government.

It is high time that the government understands that in the second decade of the 21st century, putting a journalist in prison is unacceptable and counterproductive.

Civil society and press freedom advocates also have a much more challenging goal now.

They can no longer accept pledges and guarantees of immunity from imprisonment in one law while other laws allow it.

It is now crucially important to ensure that proactive legislation clearly and unambiguously states that no journalist can be detained or arrested because of his/her views.

Such guarantee must clearly supersede the various existing laws that still allow for detaining journalists under a variety of justifications.

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Sep 30 2015

To fight extremism

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By Daoud Kuttab

In his plan to counter what he called khawarej (the outlaws) of Islam, His Majesty King Abdullah gave prominence to the role of communication in the battle for the heart soul and mind.

Item four of the seven-point plan the King laid out at the UN General Assembly Monday talked about amplifying the voice of moderate individuals.

“It is one of the greatest ironies of our time that extremist voices use advanced media to propagate ignorant ideas. We must not let our screens, airwaves, broadband and social media be monopolised by those who pose the greatest danger to our world. We too must populate our media, and more important, the minds of our young people, with the purity and power of moderation,” said the King.

The battle for the minds is not and should not be limited to the media, however. 

In an excellent analysis, columnist Rami G. Khouri took to task those who have a narrow view of countering extremism without searching for its root causes.

In his article in Al Jazeera America, titled “Beware the hoax of countering violent extremism”, Khouri calls on the global community to search deeper into the role of governments in helping increase terrorism.

“Violent extremism, it turns out, is the consequence of policies of Western and Middle Eastern states, and radical changes by both are required to stem the problem,” he argues, explaining the ongoing violent extremism as “a desperate reaction to political and socioeconomic hopelessness at home and dehumanization from foreign armies”.

While his argument has merit, it can be argued that the present crisis in Iraq and Syria is not the responsibility of either the Obama administration or of King Abdullah. Both were totally opposed to the Bush/Blair war on Iraq that gave birth to the current round of extremism.

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