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Information minister resigns in protest over draft laws.

Jordanian Information Minister Taher Adwan resigned on Tuesday in protest over the government's intention to present draft laws to parliament, which he denounced as "martial laws," the influential Beirut daily AN NAHAR reported on Wednesday. "I submitted my resignation today to Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit in protest at a government decision" to debate new press and publication laws in parliament that I opposed, Adwan said. "In addition, MPs will debate proposed anti-corruption and penal laws. I consider these laws restrictive for freedom of expression." King Abdullah II on Monday ordered parliament to convene an extraordinary session to commence on Wednesday to discuss a series of laws.

Adwan posted a copy of his letter of resignation on his facebook page. In it he described the laws as "martial laws" proposed to parliament despite its refusal to include them in legislation, which will be discussed in parliament. The laws include press, penal, and anti-corruption laws. Bakhit's government had sent to the new parliamentary session amendments toughening penalties on slander and defamation.

Denouncing the "repeated attacks on journalists who are performing their professional duties," he said that such occurrences are "contrary to political reform." "Such attacks completely contradict political reform efforts, which cannot be achieved without a democratic climate of press freedom," Adwan said. "There is leniency towards attacks on the media that are being exploited to create chaos in the country, which could lead it to the same swamps in which some regional regimes have drowned," AFP reported.

Adwan is the third MP to resign from Prime Minister Bakhit's government formed in February. The government has not formally announced its reaction to Adwan's resignation. AN NAHAR reported that several ministers visited Adwan at his home in attempt to get him to retract his resignation.

A previous government tried last year to restrict Web content through a new cyber law but the authorities backtracked due to official concern that the changes could damage Jordan's image as a relatively open country in the Arab world. The authorities accuse some news portals and weekly magazines of stepping up a smear campaign against prominent figures, officials and businessmen without substantiating their allegations, saying this hurts investment and creates an atmosphere of intimidation, Reuters reported. Unlike neighboring Syria or Saudi Arabia, where access to the Internet is restricted and some bloggers and cyber journalists have been jailed, Jordan's independent Internet sites have been relatively free.
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Publication:The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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