Restrictions on foreign funding used to limit civic space in Jordan
The recent targeting of a prominent civil society organisation promoting freedom of expression has drawn greater attention to restrictions on Jordanian civic groups that receive money from abroad. On 10th September 2017, a newspaper reported that the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ) received a memo from Jordan's Company Control Department, claiming that the organisation's registration status as a civil company barred it from receiving foreign funds. CDFJ quickly released a statement affirming its full compliance with Jordanian law but also claimed that it had not been sent the Department's memo prior to its publication, generating concern over whether the authorities had leaked the memo intentionally to tarnish CDFJ's reputation.
According to CDFJ, the memo misinterprets the law, violates constitutional rights and contradicts Jordan’s international commitments to human rights. The memo was also issued a time when CDFJ has been increasingly vocal about the increased use of government censorship as well as the unwarranted interference in the operation of independent civic groups. In a statement, CDFJ asserted that:
"[It] believes that this step [the memo] is a part of a wider campaign targeting civil society organisations in an attempt to restrict and control its work, harm its image and reputation among public as well as prevent it from advocating for society issues especially freedom of expression, media freedom, human rights and other issues related to reform and development".
Human Rights Watch also drew attention to the organisation's case as an example of the unnecessary restrictions on foreign funding for civil society organisations in Jordan which can be used by the government to target critical human rights groups. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) joined the growing number of concerned international witnesses and also urged the Jordanian authorities to drop the baseless investigation into CDFJ's operations and its founder Nidal Mansour. CPJ also denounced the intimidation against CDFJ and called upon the authorities to end the bureaucratic harassment.
As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, the lack of employment opportunities in Jordan can be a flashpoint for protests across the country. A recent report byJordan Labor Watch noted that labour-related protests in Jordan increased by 22 percent between 2015 to 2016, as a total of 288 such protests were organised in 2016, compared to 236 protests in the previous year.
Given the rising tensions over labour rights, on 7th October 2017 Jordan Labor Watch launched a social media campaign #من_حقي_أشتغل_بكرامة (#I_demand_working_with_dignity) to raise awareness for workers' rights in Jordan. The campaign hopes to improve conditions for the operation of trade unions and collective bargaining for workers throughout the country.