Jordan forbids foreign funding for journalism rights group

In a press release issued today, Human Rights Watch claimed that the Jordanian authorities have informed the Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists that its registration class does not allow it to obtain foreign funding under government laws.

The organisation added that this comes despite the fact that the centre has been active for 19 years without any problems or official complaint. The Centre works on behalf of detained journalists in the region and hosts annual workshops and events on press freedom.

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said that “targeting an organisation which defends the freedom of press is the most recent example of Jordanian threats against foreign funding for local human rights organisations.”

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“The way Jordanian authorities deal with this human rights group indicates that they consider some non-governmental organisations to be adversaries that should be controlled, rather than cooperating with them to improve the human rights situation in the country,” added Whitson.

On 28 August, 2017, the Jordanian Companies Control Department issued two memoranda to the Centre and to the Attorney General stating that the Centre has violated the 1997 Local Companies Law by receiving foreign funding despite being registered as a civil company instead of a non-profit company. However, the journalism rights group says that the regulation does not specifically ban civil companies from receiving foreign funds. On 10 September, the semi-governmental newspaper Al-Dostor has published the memorandum and a front-page article in which it criticises the journalism rights group, even before the latter received the memorandum.

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The memorandum asked the group to stop receiving any foreign or local funding and to stop saying that the organisation is a non-profit company.

The group’s executive director, Nedal Mansour, told Human Rights Watch that he was surprised when he read the Companies Control Department’s memorandum in the newspaper before even receiving it himself. He pointed out that his organisation had been cooperating with this department since the start of the investigation in March. He also claimed that the organisation had never tried to hide the fact that it has been receiving foreign funding for its projects and that over the years a number of prominent government officials had participated in these events. In a statement released on 11 September, the journalism rights group denied all the alleged violations it was accused of committing.

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