Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II

Chief Editors
Al Ghad
24 March 2010

Question: Your Majesty, Israel is launching a major campaign to Judaise Jerusalem and change its identity. In light of the historical Hashemite role in protecting holy sites and preserving the city’s Arab identity, will Jordan in coordination with Arab states, confront these threats on the international arena; especially that Your Majesty reiterated on several occasions that “Jerusalem is a red line”?

King Abdullah: Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories which were occupied by Israel in 1967, and like the rest of Palestinian lands, it is facing unilateral Israeli actions that are illegitimate and illegal, and will only lead to more conflict. We have warned repeatedly that Israel is playing with fire and that Jordan rejects and condemns all Israeli measures that aim to change the identity of Jerusalem and empty it of its Arab Christian and Muslim residents.

We will continue to uphold our role in protecting Islamic and Christian holy sites, for it is a legacy we have inherited from my forefathers.

Our efforts to protect Jerusalem continue. We are doing our best, on the ground, to empower our brethren in Jerusalem so they can protect their land. We are also providing those who serve the holy sites with all their needs. Israel knows our position on Jerusalem well: East Jerusalem must be the capital of an independent Palestinian state which has to be established as soon as possible because this is the only way to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and achieve peace.

In all my meetings with Israeli, American and international officials, I have warned that continued attacks on Jerusalem and its holy sites will ignite the entire region. Jerusalem has a special place in the hearts of Palestinians, Jordanians, Arabs and Muslims. Israeli actions, as I said in an interview with an Israeli newspaper months ago, endanger Jordanian-Israeli relations. These ties are cold, as you all know, because of Israeli practices which prevent achieving peace and giving justice to Palestinians. These practices risk destabilising the region and jeopardising all efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.

We are working with our Arab brothers to forge an effective stance to protect Jerusalem. Jerusalem also remains a top priority in our discussions with the international community. As you have probably noticed, there was a positive development in the international position on Jerusalem as well as in the European position, the Quartet’s and the American position vis-à-vis Israeli actions in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.

You might also say that all this did not stop Israeli actions, and that is true. This remains our problem, as well as the international community’s problem, with the Israeli government. We will not refrain from exerting all possible means of pressure to protect Jerusalem and to achieve peace that does the Palestinians justice and restores all Arab rights. Concerning Jerusalem, in particular, all political, legal and diplomatic options are open in dealing with the Israeli actions that are rejected, and in order to prevent Israel from reaching its objective.

Question: What is Your Majesty’s vision regarding the peace process in light of the absence of an Israeli partner committed to relevant international resolutions? And is the region on the verge of a new wave of conflict and violence?

King Abdullah: The peace process is at a crossroads now. People are tired of an open-ended process that does not lead to results. I think that the entire world is facing a moment of truth: either we achieve real, tangible and quick progress to resolve the conflict on the basis of the two-state solution within a comprehensive regional context which the Arab Peace Initiative offers; or we enter a new cycle of conflict and violence, and the whole world will pay the price.

There is no room for wasting more time. The peace process continues to lose its credibility and unilateral Israeli actions, especially settlement building, jeopardise the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. As I said before, we are getting to a point where Israel is creating realities on the ground that make it impossible to establish an independent and viable Palestinian state. This means loss of hope which in turn will inevitably lead to an explosive situation.

Israel has to decide whether it wants conflict or peace. If it really wants peace, then it has to prove that with tangible actions by ending all practices that prevent progress towards peace, initiating practical steps to end the occupation, and showing commitment and seriousness towards peace efforts that lead to a two-state solution. The path to peace is clear: an independent Palestinian state on land that was occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital, through serious and effective negotiations governed by a specific timeline and based on agreed references. Or continue to live as a fortress that is isolated from its neighbourhood and rejected in a region that faces the possibility of sinking into more violence and conflict.

The Arab Peace Initiative provides an unprecedented opportunity to achieve comprehensive peace between Israel and all Arab and Muslim states that support the initiative and have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to it. All Arab states are committed to a peace that restores Arab rights and provides security and acceptance to Israel. The entire world agrees on the need to achieve peace and that the establishment of the Palestinian state is at the core of this peace. But the problem is with Israel. What Israel needs to know is that its security will not be achieved through continued occupation, building walls, and exerting military force. Israel’s true security is attained through ending occupation, achieving peace, and building normal ties with its region and neighbours.

Here, I would like to say to the Israeli people that the chance to achieve true peace, true security, and to live peacefully with your neighbours is possible now. So, seize this opportunity in order to secure a better future for yourselves and the people of the region through ending the occupation and reaching a peace treaty that secures the Palestinians their right to a state and independence and gives you security assurances that are stronger than all armies and walls, for time is not in anyone’s interest.

We have to read the situation accurately. There is increased international pressure on the Israeli government and rejection of its positions and policies that jeopardise peace efforts. What the Israeli government wants is to remove this pressure by provoking the Palestinians and Arabs into taking a decision to withdraw from peace efforts and to tell the world that the Arabs do not want peace and there are no Palestinian and Arab negotiating partners. We must not allow Israel to achieve this goal. We have to hold on to the peace option according to the principles and references that restore all Arab rights, particularly the right of the Palestinians to establish their independent state on their national soil.

Question: But Your Majesty, some say that Israel is betting on a Jordan option and on Jordan playing a security role in the West Bank, hence, it does not have to accept the two-state solution.

King Abdullah: These are illusions. I have repeatedly affirmed, and I shall repeat now, there is no such thing as a “Jordan option”. No one can enforce such a solution and whoever speaks of such illusions is talking about an impossible scenario. Palestinians want their independent state on their national soil; and Jordanians stand with their full power behind this Palestinian right. We totally reject any role in the West Bank except to help our Palestinian brothers in building their independent state. As I have said, we will not agree to replace Israeli tanks in the West Bank with Jordanian tanks and we will not allow Israel to solve the problems of its occupation of the West Bank and the resulting suffering and injustice at Jordan’s expense. This is not even subject to discussion.

Let’s speak in more details here. You tell me how anyone can enforce this illusion! I know there are irrational voices that claim that the so-called Jordan option will be imposed through exerting economic pressure on us and halting aid, among other things. OK, but the halt in aid will result in economic problems, whereas accepting what you call the Jordan option - and I do not see it as an option - means suicide to this country. So, do we bear the challenges - something that we have done successfully many times in the past - or agree to commit the country to suicide? So, I don’t think the subject needs further discussion.

There are also those who say that Israel is going to expel Palestinians to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and impose a solution. OK, the question is how will Israel do that? This will mean war and destruction for the entire region. Let’s assume - for the sake of argument - that by some miracle Israel managed to pull this through. Will this solve the problem? Of course not. This will only deepen the conflict and force the region into a new wave of violence and war.

There is no logic in all these views, and our position is unequivocal and there is no need to waste time and effort in discussing illusions that will never be achieved. We in Jordan should not allow those who promote such illusions in order to serve their own narrow interests which are totally disconnected from Jordan’s interest to succeed.

The two-state solution is the only solution. The alternative - as many see it now - is a one-state solution where Palestinians gain citizenship rights and full political rights in Israel. In this case, Israel would have to give Palestinians who will be a majority these rights, or apply an apartheid system and live with all the consequences and the potential threats.

Question: Your Majesty, do you think the United States is close to losing its credibility in playing a constructive role in the peace process?

King Abdullah: To begin, I am certain that American President Barack Obama is committed to solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict according to the two-state solution. The US president announced that solving the conflict is in the United States’ national security interests. The truth is that a solution cannot be reached without a leading and effective US role in negotiations. We hope that the United States will give the necessary attention to peace efforts in order to achieve the required progress that is based on clear criteria, plan and timeline. An impasse in negotiations will surely undermine the credibility of the United States and that of all countries that promote a peaceful solution through negotiations.

Question: Unfortunately, the inter-Palestinian conflict between Ramallah and Gaza continues. Your Majesty, what do you think should be done to help the Palestinians end this cycle of conflict and rivalry? In the same context, the situation in the West Bank is a strategic vital interest for Jordan and there are fears over political and security stability there in light of the Israeli policies. To what extent can Jordan play a political role in supporting Palestinian steadfastness and Palestinian dialogue between Fateh, Hamas and other Palestinian factions?

King Abdullah: The current inter-Palestinian rift does not please anyone and its primary victim is Palestinian national interests. Since the very beginning, we have called for overcoming differences and unifying all Palestinian efforts to achieve the Palestinian national aspirations of freedom, independence and providing decent living for the Palestinian people. We are doing our utmost to help the Palestinians with all possible means: political and humanitarian. All our capabilities are dedicated to helping the Palestinians overcome their differences and establish their state and build institutions that will serve them well. The Palestinians are our people, their suffering is our suffering, and we want for their children and youth the prosperous and secure future that we seek for our own children and youth.

We hope that the Palestinians are able to reach national reconciliation soon, and Jordan will remain, as always, by their side. We are constantly in touch with President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian National Authority institutions and constantly coordinate to provide them with the help and support they need. We reiterate our call on the Palestinian brothers to work to achieve reconciliation and to work together for their people’s rights.

There is a humanitarian tragedy in Gaza, the entire world has to move to end it and we cannot remain silent. As you know we are doing our best to help our people in Gaza. I have directed the government and all concerned parties to provide the support they need. The Jordanian military field hospital is still operating in Gaza, and relief aid continues. We are constantly calling on the international community to lift the inhumane siege on Gaza to end the suffering. Lifting the blockade is a political, legal, moral and human responsibility for the international community.

Question: How does Jordan view the Iraqi elections? And how would you describe the developments in Jordanian-Iraqi relations?

King Abdullah: We have always supported the political process in Iraq based on our belief that a political process that includes all components of the Iraqi society and opens the door for all Iraqis to contribute to building their state and ensuring its security and stability on the basis of citizenship and equality is the best way to overcome the plight of the Iraqi people.

We hope that the elections are a step in this direction. We supported those elections by providing the most conducive environment to allow the Iraqis to cast their votes in Jordan. Iraq’s stability and security is a major factor in regional peace and stability. It is true that we - as Arabs - have not done enough for Iraq. We must do much more. We will continue to support our Iraqi brothers, and our relations are moving in the right direction. We are keen on developing them and increasing cooperation with Iraq in all areas.

Question: Inter-Arab relations need intense efforts to clear the atmosphere and unite ranks and foster brotherly ties and action. Your Majesty, what are your views in this regard as we approach the Arab summit in Libya?

King Abdullah: Our vision is clear and is based on a constant policy to overcome all Arab differences and to build Arab solidarity on institutional basis guaranteeing the highest levels of cooperation and coordination and building real partnerships that have a direct impact on the interests of Arab citizens everywhere. There have been marked improvements after the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ initiative at the Kuwait summit. We hope this improvement continues and translates into sustainable and institutionalised cooperation in all fields. For the closer the Arabs are to each other and the more they overcome their differences the more capable we are of facing common challenges and of better serving our people. This is our responsibility towards our citizens.

Arab differences only serve the enemies of the nation. And you speak often of interference by others in our affairs, and here I say that the others would not interfere in our affairs unless we allow them to.

There is an Arab summit to be hosted by Libya in a few days. We look forward to having the summit become a vital venue towards clearing Arab relations and fostering mechanisms for joint Arab action and drafting practical plans to serve Arab interests. We are confident of Libya’s ability, under the leadership of Brother Leader Muammar Qadhafi, to successfully manage the summit in a way that reflects positively on the future of Arab relations.

As for us in Jordan, we have distinguished ties with all our brothers that are constantly developing whether in terms of political coordination to address common challenges, or economic cooperation. We are also working on several major projects in cooperation with our Arab brothers in line with our conviction that achieving Arab integration is a common and vital Arab interest and a necessary move to confront the challenges in the future where success requires building effective frameworks for regional cooperation.

Question: The Iranian file is being escalated by all sides in dealing with proposed international diplomatic solutions. Your Majesty, how do you see prospects for a resolution of this file?

King Abdullah: Escalation will not serve anyone and our position is based on the need to reach a diplomatic solution to this problem. We reject any attempt at a military solution because this would lead to a catastrophe in the region. The nuclear issue is a thorny one and must be addressed with absolute transparency that ensures the right of all countries to have peaceful nuclear energy on the basis of full commitment to international agreements and conventions. And when we speak of transparency we emphasise that it should apply to all countries including Israel.

The country cannot afford new wars. And any military action will have dangerous repercussions on all of the region’s states and the global economy. Therefore, the only solution we see is the diplomatic solution and everyone must realise that the Palestinian issue is the core conflict in the region and so all efforts should be exerted to resolve it, because this solution is the key to all other regional crises.

Question: Jordan is facing tough economic conditions that have clearly reflected on the budget deficit. How can these conditions be addressed?

King Abdullah: Yes, there are tough economic conditions that were mainly the result of the global financial and economic crisis that has impacted the whole world. We are doing everything we can to alleviate the impact of these conditions on citizens, especially those with limited income. As you know, improving the national economy and providing a decent life for our citizens has been our priority since day one of assuming responsibility.

In the long term, the solution to this crisis will be through policies and programmes that raise the competitiveness of our economy and arm our youth and workforce with education, knowledge and the necessary skills and provide job opportunities and ensure sustainable economic growth. Thank God, we have achieved good economic growth rates during the past few years and Jordan has made qualitative leaps in several economic sectors, but, naturally that is not enough and there needs to be more achievements.

We try to employ our good international relations in the service of our economy and to attract investments that provide jobs and launch economic projects in the country. Our policy has been based on improving the investment climate and developing our human resources and ensuring that Jordan is able to benefit and interact with the global economy. In that regard, we have signed free trade agreements with the United States, Canada, Europe and many other countries with the aim of opening up markets for our exports and introducing technology that develops our industries and products. Several laws were amended and other legislation developed to establish a legislative environment that attracts investment and stimulates economic growth.

Jordanians are our biggest wealth. And it is our duty to continue to invest in training, empowering and opening new horizons for them that will help them achieve and excel. That is why we focus our attention on education and developing the educational environment as well as providing vocational training to our labour force.

Education is the foundation and there are tremendous efforts to improve the educational process by improving the educational environment, developing the curricula and improving schools. But most important of all is the teacher who is the foundation and core of the educational process. No matter what we do, we cannot do the teachers justice, and I am aware of the tough conditions they face. My directives to governments have always been to do their utmost to improve teachers’ living conditions, provide them with decent housing and better salaries and to respond to their needs to the best of their ability and within available resources.

This is a priority issue for me and for Queen Rania who is making huge efforts for the sake of teachers and the educational process. The government programme highlights the importance of doing everything that is possible within the available resources to improve teachers’ conditions. It is also the responsibility of all of us at state institutions and in society to deal respectfully with teachers and to appreciate them in a way that is congruent with their key role in raising future generation and with their sacred mission. Teachers have a sublime mission and their responsibilities towards their students are great. We must all work to ensure the best educational process and to provide the conditions that assist teachers in carrying out their mission and to guarantee that our children receive the best quality of education.

Question: In implementation of Royal Directives, the government is currently working on drafting a new elections law. Your Majesty, what do you think of the drafting process and what are the law’s main features?

King Abdullah: We have called for early parliamentary elections that would be a model for integrity, impartiality and transparency, and that would constitute a qualitative leap in the process of development and modernisation that we are carrying out in order to build a better future for Jordan, to enable all Jordanians to exercise their right to run as candidates and to carry out their duty to elect a legislature that exercises its full constitutional role in monitoring, legislating and contributing to the development process and consolidating democracy as a culture and a practice.

We have directed the government to take the necessary steps starting with amending the Elections Law and developing procedures for the electoral process. What we want is to have effective parliamentary work and to increase participation of citizens in the elections. We have also directed the government to hold the elections during the last quarter of this year. I hope every one contributes to the success of this process: The government does its role in preparing for the elections in a way that ensures its transparency and integrity and citizens do their part through participating in the electoral process and electing the candidate most capable of serving them and serving Jordan’s interests. We are now waiting for the government to complete its amendments to the law.

We want everyone to participate in the elections, men and women. I have often said that I wanted political and party work to develop in order for competition to be based on plans and programmes and not on personal basis and narrow considerations. Parliament is one of the main pillars of political work in Jordan and we want this institution to fully exercise its constitutional powers.

Question: Your Majesty, you have over the past few years and on many occasions encouraged Jordanians, especially the youth, to participate in the elections and to go out and vote. What is your message to them now that we are so close to the elections date?

King Abdullah: I say to the youth: contribute to building your future, exercise your right to vote, elect who you think is the most capable and most efficient in achieving your ambitions and building the Jordan of the future that is secure and able to meet your hopes.

A higher voter turnout will increase competition and in turn ensure that only the best make it to the Lower House. Our problem in this country is that there are too many people who only have negative criticism and I say that the parliamentary election will open the door for everyone to participate in public service, to correct errors and to upgrade performance. We welcome constructive criticism and call on everyone to contribute to the country’s progress and development. What we reject, and out of concern for Jordan’s interest and future, are the negative voices that do not acknowledge achievements and are only good at undermining the achievements of this country. It is the responsibility of youth to confront this negativity by contributing to building their society and demanding that all candidates present their plans and programmes to develop the country in order for these plans and programmes to form the basis of their vote.

Question: We spoke a lot about the comprehensive reform process. How much, as Jordanians under Your Majesty’s leadership, did we achieve in this process?

King Abdullah: The process of reform, development and modernisation is a continuous one and is necessary for Jordan’s interest. We have made great strides in that area, but the road ahead is still long and there must be concerted efforts to push the reform process forward. I have said more than once that we are committed to reform in all its aspects - political, economic and administrative - out of conviction that it is an inevitable requirement to develop the country and unleash the potential of Jordanians. And as I stated in the Letter of Designation to the government that we consider economic reform a priority due to its direct impact on people’s lives. We believe that economic reform will not achieve the results that we seek unless it becomes part of comprehensive political, social and administrative reforms that ensure the highest degree of public participation in decision making through efficient institutions that work transparently to exemplify achievement and address deficiencies and shortcomings wherever they may occur.

I would have liked the reform process to move faster. In many cases, we have taken two steps forward and one step back for several reasons, some of them relate to the situation in the region and others to resistance from some segments of society that believe it threatens their gains and interests and others that fear change. There are also others that want to keep their heads buried in the sand and don’t want to keep pace with the developments in the world. In some instances, officials failed or were reluctant to do their job.

I have said in the past that the biggest challenge I have faced during the many years since assuming responsibility is the negativity that some exhibit at every major step we take in the service of Jordan. It was a challenge for me not to be frustrated by those who say “no” to everything or “it can’t be done” at every major step. But we will not be discouraged and will continue to pursue reform that secures a better future for Jordan. The determination of all Jordanians will help us overcome the negative voices of society and will carry us forward.

By the way, when I say that my priority is to build a strong middle class, it is out of conviction that the middle class is capable of advancing reform and leading the process of modernisation and development. Because the middle class is the source of civil society institutions and parties. It has the ability to hold officials accountable and to demand that laws are updated and applied. It constitutes the biggest element of pressure towards progress in the political reform process.

Democracy is a culture, and accountability is a mature social and institutional structure, and the middle class is capable of carrying this structure. And to those who are sceptical about every move and stand against the future, I say that the reform we want and seek to achieve is one that stems from our needs as a country and based on our interests; reform that takes into account only Jordan’s needs and convictions.

We are now at the threshold of a new era that is defined mainly by hard work based on programmes and plans and governed by clear objectives and performance indicators. The Letter of Designation to the government clearly outlined that this phase should be characterised by work, achievement and progress in the development and modernisation process. There is no room for complacency or inaction and work should be free of policy of appeasement and should be subject to accountability within plans and programmes that are known to the people so that citizens are aware of the criteria used to evaluate government performance. I am optimistic that the government will carry out its duties while being well aware of the great responsibility it is shouldering and the need for citizens to feel it is absolutely serious about implementing the designation letter and in ensuring it is managing public affairs with utmost efficiency and transparency, especially in implementing the comprehensive reforms we deem necessary for Jordan.

Question: Your Majesty, corruption is one of the main obstacles to economic and political reforms. How can Jordan confront and restrict this phenomenon? What is required from the government to keep promises it made in its reply to the designation letter regarding efforts to fight corruption?

King Abdullah: Fighting all forms of corruption is a clear designation to the government and all its predecessors. We have directed the government not to disregard any suspected case of corruption if there is enough evidence to prosecute. All corruption no matter how large or small or whether financial or administrative is an illness that we will fight with all available means. The government started its work by issuing a code of conduct that everyone is committed to. It also knows that we will not be lenient on this issue and has pledged to implement our directives in that regard.

Like any other country, there must be cases of corruption in Jordan and corrupt practices, but we have to be realistic in dealing with this phenomenon and not to exaggerate its existence. There are some instances where the volume of corruption is largely exaggerated. If corruption is as widespread as some claim, Jordan would not have been able to make all these achievements. And you know that our situation is good even in international reports.

Question: Terrorism has constituted a major and direct security challenge for Jordan during the past few years and Your Majesty had warned that terrorism feeds on radical ideology and therefore issued the Amman Message that represents part of a preventive and cultural strategy to build immunity against extremism and terrorism. How satisfied are you with what has been achieved in the fight against terrorism?

King Abdullah: We will protect our citizens and ensure our security against any terrorist acts by any side. We all remember the heinous crimes that were committed by terrorists against innocent civilians in Amman on November 9, 2005 when we lost 60 people and more than 100 were injured. Jordan has been the target of terrorism for years and even before the hotel attacks. And I have said that we will protect our country and will not wait for the terrorists to come to us and to kill our children. But we will hunt down every one who plans to attack our country and our people wherever they may be. I am proud of our security forces and of their efforts to protect the country against terror. Terrorism is the enemy of Jordan and the Arabs and humanity and primarily the enemy of our religion that is innocent of all the crimes committed by terrorists and that are alien to our faith and its message of tolerance.

It is our duty to protect our religion from attempts to distort its image, and as you know Jordan has worked throughout the past years to fight terror ideologically and culturally through many initiatives including the Amman Message that you have mentioned and that was launched in 2004 to outline the great values of Islam. There is also “A Common Word” that was launched in Jordan to bring the followers of monotheistic religions closer. We will continue to fight the terrorist ideology through presenting the true image of our religion and its values and you as media have a major role in fighting terror and exposing it and guarding society against it. Frankly, you should make a bigger effort to confront attempts by terrorists to mislead youth and to distort the image of our faith and just causes.

Question: Your Majesty, you have stressed the need to tackle the problems of poverty and unemployment in many of your speeches and designation letters to successive governments. Has the performance of governments been up to your expectation in terms of reducing the figures that continue to climb?

King Abdullah: Whatever we do in that respect is not enough and we must do more. Poverty and unemployment are one of the main issues that worry me because of their direct impact on Jordanian families and their standards of living. As you know, the economic conditions will not allow a total resolution to the problem. But we make every effort to address them and alleviate their impact. Nothing is more important to me than to secure a decent living for citizens. This is why I am constantly focused on improving the economy and attracting investment and launching new projects that provide job opportunities as the best way to fight unemployment, something that would reduce poverty and its repercussions.

We now have several projects that will improve conditions in the long run: economic mega-projects that we are working on to protect the economic future of Jordan and achieve food and water security as well as meet the Kingdom’s energy needs. But rest assured that we are doing everything we can to ensure that every child receives the education he/she deserves, every youth has a job and every mother and father have the means to provide for their families. We have directed the government to secure better management of resources and to base its economic policies and measures on clear and specific goals so that nothing is misspent and to ensure that public administration is a model in transparency, equality and efficiency.

I am optimistic about the future and I have great confidence in my people and we will be able to overcome the challenges through good planning and programmes that are based on clear, effective and transparent action plans. We will transform challenges to opportunities and build a better future.

In reality, the government will not be able to address the problem alone or achieve the needed economic growth. I would be very happy to see the private sector contribute to confronting the problem of unemployment by establishing projects that create new jobs and to see a real and productive partnership between the public and private sectors to develop the country and increase achievements.

Question: Your Majesty, you hold a firm position on supporting freedoms of expression, press and opinion. You reiterated, on several occasions, your opposition to detaining journalists and restricting their freedoms. In light of this, how do you read the present level of media freedoms in Jordan?

King Abdullah: You know my position and you have heard it several times. What we seek is independent, professional and free media organisations that play their role without any obstacles, media organisations that are free to write and make constructive and free criticism and consequently contribute to our development and modernisation process. I have directed the government in the Letter of Designation to take all necessary steps that guarantee professional and free media work and that contribute to developing our media industry.

While officials are expected to be open with media and ensure the flow of information and respect the media’s right to access information and operate freely, I think you would also agree with me that the media are also required to commit to their work ethics and professional practices. You, as journalists, have expressed your rejection of unethical and unprofessional practices by some groups that harm the profession, society, the country and citizens. You have a responsibility to protect your profession and people from blackmail by the few who abuse the profession and violate people’s rights and defame them in total disregard for the truth and professional ethics.

The government has adopted a code of conduct to regulate its relationship with the press in order for you to practise the profession freely. The law does not allow detaining journalists. Recently also, the law was amended so press cases are considered in the Court of First Instance only in accordance with our vision which seeks a clear legal environment that protects media practice and boosts media freedoms.

Frankly, there were, previously, unacceptable practices, appeasement at the expense of truth, professionalism, the country and its citizens. All this has now come to an end. The code of conduct requires officials to adhere to clear legal, ethical and professional standards in their dealing with the media. And you in the Press Association and media organisations should make sure that all those who practise the profession adhere to the code of conduct and the professional standards you have adopted.

Free, independent, and professional media are a necessity for the country. At the same time, there needs to be a transparent legal mechanism and consistent with best practices worldwide to protect the right of people and their reputation in a way that secures their right of litigation against any false accusations and allegations that harm their reputation.

Question: Recently, the media have become noticeably interested in women and children’s issues. Many activists in this field focus on the need to provide greater legal protection for women and children. How would you comment on this?

King Abdullah: I do not accept any infringement on the rights of women and children. I have directed the government to take all necessary measures and legal amendments to protect these rights.

Thank God, progress has been achieved in this field. However, there is still much more to do. There is a huge lack of legislation concerning the rights of women and children and the government is currently working to correct the situation.

Justice is indivisible. If we in Jordan were a truly fair society then we should all work to protect all segments of society. Women constitute half of our society. Protecting and empowering them means protecting and supporting half of Jordan. And children are the future of Jordan and protecting them is an investment in our future. We should continue to consolidate the legislative and cultural environment that guarantees the protection of women and children’s rights and ends any violation of those rights and any attacks against them regardless of the name they are committed under.