Jordanian journalists call for press freedom

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In the first protest of its kind here, journalists from state-controlled media demonstrated Monday for press freedom and demanded the ouster of the editor of the main government-controlled newspaper. 

"We're fed up. We've reached the point where there's no turning back," said Amer Smadi, a veteran broadcaster currently with state radio and formerly a news anchor on Jordanian television. "We have nothing to fear now. I've been waiting to say this all my life." 

Inspired by the anti-government uprisings sweeping the Arab world and mounting calls for change at home, about 200 journalists from official and independent media rallied near the headquarters of Al-Rai, the main state-controlled paper. They then marched to the building, shouting slogans and calling for the dismissal of the government-appointed editor of Al-Rai, Abdel Wahab Zgheilat. 

"We want press freedom, not government censorship!" they chanted. "We want the liberation of the media! Self-censorship destroys professionalism!".

A statement read to the crowd demanded a halt to "intervention in the media" by the Jordanian government and security agencies, and a change of the state-controlled press "to independent newspapers." 

In an apparent sign of greater official tolerance of such protests, Information Minister Taher Adwan, a former newspaper editor, arrived at the rally and expressed his support, rejecting "intervention by any party" in media work. "There can be no economic or political reform if we don't start with the media," he said. 

Al-Rai and other government-controlled newspapers have responded to growing protests calling for limits on the powers of King Abdullah II by highlighting gatherings where Jordanian tribes and other groups have pledged their allegiance to the monarch.
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