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MENAFN - Jordan Times - 27/09/2012

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(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Print media institutions may have to assign independent editors-in-chief for their websites under the amended Press and Publications Law, an official said on Wednesday.

"The law left no room for interpretation and does not exclude any media outlet. News websites, whether they are independent or belong to a print media institution, must have a separate editor-in-chief," Press and Publications Department (PPD) Director Fayez Shawabkeh said at a press conference.

However, he added, the department will ask the Higher Judicial Council's Law Interpretation Bureau to give its opinion on the possibility of newspapers having the same editor-in-chief for their print and online versions.

In addition, according to a document provided by Shawabkeh outlining the new requirements for news websites, these sites must be headed by editors who have been members of the Jordan Press Association (JPA) for at least four years: a requirement not mentioned in previous official statements on the amendments.

Many online media stakeholders had bristled at the requirement of JPA membership in the first place, as most of the news websites' staff members do not belong to the association.

Earlier this month, a Royal Decree was issued endorsing the amended Press and Publications Law as approved by both Houses of Parliament.

Shawabkeh reiterated that the new law does not apply to social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, does not limit press freedom or freedom of expression, and will not interfere with the content of news websites as long as they abide by the regulations.

"The law gave news websites a 90-day grace period to rectify their status in terms of licensing and registration at the Press and Publications Department," he said.

"After the deadline, the PPD director has the jurisdiction to block websites that cover local affairs and violate the regulations if they do not register and obtain licences," Shawabkeh said, adding that registered websites that violate regulations will be referred to the judiciary.

Stakeholders in the media and ICT sectors, as well as press freedom advocates, have criticised the law for being vague about its jurisdiction, arguing that it does not clearly refer to news websites.

In response to opponents of the law who worried that it would harm the Kingdom's IT sector and give the government far-reaching powers to censor the Internet, the Senate issued a clarification explaining that only local news websites, and not social media networks or search engines, would be governed by the Press and Publications Law.

Last week, the JPA amended its law and sent it to the government for endorsement. The amendments are meant to expand the association's membership to include the online media.


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