The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today strongly condemned the arrest of Jordanian journalist Jamal Haddad and demanded his immediate release.

Haddad, editor of the news website Al-Wakaai, was arrested on December 24, on the orders of the state security court prosecutor, for his report claiming that Jordan had received a supply of COVID-19 vaccines and that some senior officials had been vaccinated. The journalist has been accused of “endangering public security and causing sedition and public disorder”.

“The frequent detention of journalists undermines the democratic reforms that the Jordanian government had promised”, IPI Executive Board Vice-Chair Daoud Kuttab said. “The detention of journalists for asking critical questions and raising awareness will have a chilling effect. The government has other options to clarify issues rather than arresting journalists. Haddad should be released immediately.”

Following Haddad’s arrest, a protest was held outside the office of the Jordan Journalists’ Syndicate in the capital Amman, calling for his release. In a statement, the syndicate claimed that the state security court does not have jurisdiction over cases related to the freedom of expression.

As part of its efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, the government declared a state of emergency in March 2020, invoking a 1992 Defense Law that gives authorities sweeping powers to impose curfews, close businesses and gag the press.

At least 2 journalists are confirmed to have been arrested by security forces since the pandemic began. On April 10,  Jordanian authorities had detained Roya TV channel owner Fares Sayegh and news director Mohamad al-Khalidi, after the TV channel aired a segment in which people from impoverished neighbourhoods of Amman were seen complaining about the lockdown imposed by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19. Both media executives were released on bail a day later.