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French Version

Censorship of books and publications eased in Jordan, but up to a point

Local and international publications - books, novels and magazines - will no longer be censored in Jordan, the Jordanian Culture Ministry announced this week. According to a report from the United Nation's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on it's electronic newswire service (IRIN) released Monday, as a sign of its growing commitment to civil liberties, Amman said it would ease and even stop censorship of printed materials in the country.

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 Kodat, 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.

But that didn't stop the recent raid and confiscation of books including Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" by the public security directorate at the popular Amman bookshop Kushk Abu Ali, according to the owner Hasan Abu Ali.

Kodat 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 offense to religion, we [the PPD] acknowledged that the book was a purely a work of literary fiction," Kodat said in the IRIN report.

While distribution of the novel has not been completely stopped, despite the objections, additional copies have not been allowed to enter the country.

Perhaps the time for a full easing of censorship on all books including ones that refer to religion has not yet come.

Amman,06 13 2005
Ramsay Short
The Daily Star
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