Geneva – Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties (GCRL) firmly condemns the arrest of Jordanian-Palestinian cartoonist Emad Hajjaj by the Jordanian authorities for practicing his right to freedom of expression, after publishing a caricature critical of the Israel-UAE normalization deal.
Amman’s Public Prosecution ordered the detention of Jordanian cartoonist Emad Hajjaj,53, who is known for his satirical character “Abu Mahjoub”, over a caricature which the authorities deemed offensive and “disturbing relations with a sister country”.
The cartoonist has worked with several local and international newspapers. His works mainly address economic and social issues through the cartoon character of “Abu Mahjoub”.
Geneva council believes that Hajjaj’s arrest comes amid escalating violations of the right to freedom of expression in Jordan, the latest of which was the harassment and arrests to limit media coverage of ongoing protests stemming from the arbitrary closure of the Jordanian Teachers’ Syndicate on July 25, 2020.
Authorities arrested journalists Basil Okoor, editor-in-chief of Jo24, a local news website on July 27 for breaking the gag order, Laith al-Juneidi, a photojournalist for the Turkish Anadolu Agency with over 10 years of experience, was arrested on August 9 while covering teachers’ protests in Irbid, a city in northern Jordan. Two other journalists were also beaten by the security forces while trying to cover recent teacher protests.
The violations of freedom of expression and assembly have culminated on July 25, 2020, when the police raided the Teachers Syndicate headquarters in Amman and 11 of its branches across the country, shuttered them and arrested all 13 syndicate board members without legal basis. The authorities have prevented or forcibly dispersed ongoing protests in towns across the country. They have arrested numerous teachers and other protesters before they were released.
Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties affirms that a caricature is a form of freedom of expression, a right guaranteed under national or international laws.
It is noteworthy that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
While demanding the immediate release of cartoonist Imad Hajjaj and dropping the charges against him, Geneva Council stresses the need to stop using laws and the judiciary to legalize the arrest of journalists, the restriction on freedoms, and to silence critical voices.