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JORDAN: Press freedom group condemns club-wielding mob's raid on news agency

June 18, 2011 |  9:46 am

11182-1Press freedom groups are calling attention to a raid on the office of the Agence France-Presse news agency in the Jordanian capital earlier this week after it reported that the motorcade of Jordanian King Abdullah II was pelted with bottles and stones during a tour in a southern city. 

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders "strongly condemned" the attack in a statement on Saturday.

On Wednesday, AFP's Amman bureau became a scene of chaos and violence when a group of club-wielding men descended on the office, storming the facility and smashing furniture and office phones, according to Reporters Without Borders. 

AFP's Amman bureau chief Randa Habib told the group that she had received threats since the bureau reported the alleged stone attack on the king's motorcade.

“I received a phone call threatening me and warning me that we would pay dearly for what we had done,” she said. “This attack is a new warning, with the aim of scaring, but Agence France-Presse will continue to operate as normal."

Aside from press freedom groups, the raid also prompted outrage from AFP's headquarters, which blasted the attack in a letter dispatched to the Jordanian prime minister.

“Such behaviour is totally incomprehensible in a country that claims to follow the rule of law," wrote AFP Chairman and CEO Emmanuel Hoog. "These acts of physical and verbal violence have a serious impact on the work of journalists and therefore impact on the freedom of expression and information.”

And on Thursday, dozens of journalists and press freedom activists gathered outside AFP's office to protest against the attack and called on the Jordanian authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice, Jordanian media reports said.

The incident wasn't the first time AFP's Amman office has come under threat during a time of widespread unrest throughout the Arab world. In February, the agency reported that Jordanian Bedouin tribes had accused Queen Rania of corruption. Following the report, AFP suddenly stopped receiving copies of speeches by the king and announcements of his official visits, according to RSF.

 -- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: AFP bureau chief Randa Habib speaks to reporters at a protest outside the news agency's Amman office on Thursday. Credit: Nader Daoud / Jordan Times website

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