In 1989 Jordan had four daily newspapers, all published in Amman. One, The Jordan Times, was printed in English. The three Arabic dailies were Sawt ash Shab (Voice of the People), Ar Rai (Opinion), and Ad Dustur (The Constitution). The press was mostly privately owned and subject to censorship. The Arabic-language papers had been suspended at various times throughout the 1980s for publishing articles that the government considered objectionable. In 1988 the government ordered the dissolution of the board of directors of all three Arabic papers. The Ministry of Culture and Information was responsible for most press censorship on a daily basis and frequently provided editors with guidance on how to report on sensitive foreign policy and security matters. In practice, editors generally exercised self-censorship to minimize conflicts with the authorities.
The government also tried to control individual journalists by rewarding those deemed cooperative and by punishing those whose stories it considered critical. The most common punishment was the withdrawal of government-issued press credentials, which all writers were required to have in order to work for a newspaper or news agency. This procedure was used to prevent several journalists (including a principal writer for The Jordan Times) from publishing during 1987 and 1988. Journalists also have been subjected to house arrest. In June 1987, the government dissolved the Writers' Association, a professional organization of journalists, charging that it had become a political group and had contacts with illegal parties. The Ministry of Culture and Information subsequently sponsored an official union, the Journalists' Association, and required all writers to join it.
The government attempted to discourage the Arabic press of East Jerusalem from publishing critical stories, especially about Hussein's relations with the PLO, by such means as banning single issues of papers and magazines, refusing to renew the passports of West Bank journalists, and sending messages through discreet channels that certain writers or editors would be arrested if they entered Jordan. Foreign publications and journalists also were banned when their articles criticized Jordan. In 1986 Western correspondents expressed concern about the government's interference with press freedom during and after the disturbances at Yarmuk University. In 1988 the government expelled an American correspondent for National Broadcasting Company (NBC) because he had reported on political repression in Jordan.
The government operated an official news agency known as PETRA. Several international news services maintained offices in Amman, including Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters, and TASS. Radio and television broadcasting were controlled by the government. Jordan Radio and Television had twenty hours of Arabic radio programs daily, and fifteen hours in English. There were an estimated 550,000 privately owned radio receivers in 1985, the latest year for which statistics were available. Jordan Radio and Television also broadcast ninety hours weekly of television programs in Arabic and English. In 1985 there were an estimated 280,000 television sets in the country. Both radio and television accepted advertisements.
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