Censorship of books and publications eased

As a sign of its growing commitment to civil liberties, Jordan's ministry of culture recently announced that it would no longer censor local and international publications.

The state-controlled Publications and Publishing Department (PPD) has closely monitored books, newspapers and magazines for content that might be deemed offensive to the government, the royal family or religious groups, and all imported books had to be approved by the PPD before distribution inside the country.

In the capital, Amman, the acting general manager of the PPD, Ahmad Al Qudah, told IRIN that the recent move to allow greater press freedom was part of a broader strategy to create "space for creative expression".

The department could now give the go-ahead for publishing regardless of content, and also had a mandate to develop the country's publishing industry.

Despite the recent easing of restrictions on the press, there are huge challenges ahead. Local papers recently reported a police raid on a popular city bookstore, called Kushk Abu Ali.

According to the owner, Hasan Abu Ali, members of the public security directorate came into his shop and requested a list of books they said were to be confiscated, including Dan Brown's best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code.

Al-Qudah said although Brown's book had been approved for circulation, some religious groups claimed it was offensive.

"After approving the book title for circulation, we received a letter from a Jordanian bishop, stating that the book was offensive to Christianity and should be banned. While censorship has always been harsh on any offence to religion, we [the PPD] acknowledged that the book was a purely a work of literary fiction," al-Qudah pointed out.

Distribution of the novel was not stopped, despite the objections, but additional copies were not allowed to enter the country.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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