x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Jordanians protest press clampdown after king promises to protect media

At the end of the march, protesters also burnt a US flag denouncing US interference in the reform process in Jordan and the region.

AMMAN // About 300 Jordanians yesterday protested in downtown Amman against last week's crackdown on demonstrators and journalists.

Calling the rally a "Friday of dignity and press freedoms", protesters held banners that read "No to government thugs" and demanded that journalists be no longer "insulted" in a march began at Al Husseini mosque in downtown Amman. One banner depicting a policeman wielding a baton read "Here's where your dignity ends".

"We are here to protest against the use of excessive force against protesters," said Ahmad Ramahi, 31, an activist from a movement supporting Arab nationalism.

Last Friday police wielding batons and clubs dispersed a peaceful protest, injuring 73 people. Twenty journalists were hurt, five of whom were hospitalised. Thirty-two police men were also injured. A police probe on Wednesday blamed mostly protesters and several policemen for the violence.

Yesterday's demonstration was held a day after King Abdullah II renounced violence against journalists. Protesters also called for Marouf Bakhit, the prime minister, to step down.

Muhannad Saafeen, an activist with Jayeen, a youth movement of leftists and nationalists, believed that police were given orders to crack down on protesters.

"They asked journalists to wear orange vests but they singled them out and beat them," he said. "This indicates that policemen were given orders to do so."

King Abdullah on Thursday urged protection of journalists and said Friday's actions by police did not represent the public security department.

"What's the use of having the king support journalists and then you have police beating protesters?" said Islam Samhan, the culture editor at Arab Al Yawm, an independent daily based in Amman, who took part in the protest.

At the end of the march, protesters also burnt a US flag denouncing US interference in the reform process in Jordan and the region.

"America is the head of the snake," they chanted as they set the flag ablaze.

"We want to tell the Americans we do not need to take orders from you," Mr Saafeen said. "We want them to stop interfering in Arab countries. The US is aware that there is no democracy in Jordan ... Why are the Americans interfering now? We do not need their support."

smaayeh@thenational.ae