Republic of Gangs in Jordan…Sensationalist Headline of Press Article Lacking Evidence

AKEED, Aya Khawaldeh

The London-based newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed published a report on its website headlined "Republic of Gangs in Jordan…Parallel State," which was based on anonymous testimonies and sources of information. The report lacked evidence to prove its content.

The sensationalist headline made many social media users republish the report on their personal pages. Meanwhile, local news websites did not publish or refer to it, with the exception of one electronic site.

The headline is interesting, but the content is not based on clear sources, according to an analysis conducted by the Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED). The sources of the report were as follows: "Testimonies by some townspeople," "testimony of a person in his thirties who refused to mention his name," "one of the neighbors of the victim," "a number of Jordanian citizens," and "former activists in the Jordanian popular movement who preferred that their names not be mentioned."

The report also cites Dr. Hussein Khuzae, a sociologist, as speaking about "organized gangs that have the power of deterrence and thuggery and that have common ties and share turf, in a phenomenon that has grown amid clear security failure. It is no longer useful to remain silent on this failure." In an interview with AKEED, Khuzae denied this and said that no one from the said newspaper had contacted him.

Dr. Khuzae regarded it strange that his name was mentioned in the report, adding: "There are no organized gangs in Jordan. The law is violated by individuals, and legal action is taken against them. There are also no hotspots and areas that are away from the eyes of the security agencies. I do not think that such claims are valid in a country that has 16 correctional facilities, which house 11,000 inmates."

The writer of the report also included a statement attributed to writer Bassam Baddarin, without indicating that it is quoted from Baddarin's latest article in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, headlined "Underworld…Thugs of Jordan." He not only did that, but he republished, verbatim, a number of paragraphs from Baddarin's article and used the same wording and some of the same ideas after editing them.

The writer of the report exceeded this by creating a new personality, which he described as "a man in his thirties who refused to mention his name and who was active in this criminal world in Zarqa Governorate before withdrawing." He attributed to him a paragraph that was published in Baddarin's article, as the screenshot below shows.

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In an interview with AKEED, Dr. Sakher Khasawneh, professor of media legislation, says that "it is known that internationally organized gangs follow scientific principles that have a criminal character in terms of the structure of the group and the organization of their members and assignment of duties." He added: "Their aim is to achieve illegal interests. They operate secretly in return for the achievement of material or moral gains. They seek to carry out criminal activities in the interest of individuals or organizations."  

According to Khasawneh, Jordan is free from such criminal organizations. There are small groups that could have friendship or family ties. These groups might also carry out criminal activities because they exist in a certain area. However, their number is small and they do not match the description of organized gangs or mafias. Besides, they are known to the security agencies and action is taken against them when there is any violation of the law.

Through his previous experience with the security agencies and current work in law, Khasawneh says: "It has not been proven that there are criminal agreements to form gangs of evildoers, as known in organized gangs. Penalties become stiffer when a group of persons agrees to commit a crime or a number of crimes. The State Security Court handles such crimes."

Regarding the report on "republic of gangs," Khasawneh affirms that it does not contain evidence, documents, and testimonies that support what was contained in it. The report contained generalizations, which conflict with the way the security agencies have recently handled outlaws in Hashemi Shamali, Kamaliyah, and Rusaifah.

Khasawneh said that the term "underworld" used by the writer has expanded the scope of crimes in Jordan, while crime rates are normal. These reports should seek accuracy and try to obtain information from reliable sources, based on ethical rules and professional work. They should convey a clear message, whether it contains criticism of the security agencies or others without seeking to sow sedition.

Khasawneh hoped that the security agencies would send a clear message by clarifying their position on the content of the report, especially since they handle a large number of cases every day and are in direct contact with the judicial agencies to know their rulings.

Lieutenant Colonel Amer Sartawi, head of the media office at the Public Security Directorate, told AKEED that "the writer of the report is unaware of the meaning of organized gangs. The violations faced by the security agencies in Jordan are individual actions by a number of persons who repeat specific types of crimes, whether it is theft or fabricating incidents or harming others. These are handled in accordance with the law by receiving complaints and referring them to the judiciary and adopting severe administrative measures against them, such as administrative detention and house arrest."

Sartawi said that the security agencies face a problem concerning persons imposing protection money because citizens are afraid of filing complaints against them. Therefore, the security agencies, through the Criminal Investigations Department, have followed a new method by responding to any piece of information that is received about repeat offenders and apprehending them. Then, the agencies contact persons who are harmed to see if they want to lodge a complaint against them so as to refer them to the judiciary. If they do not wish to do that, administrative actions and house arrest are implemented. Sartawi advised citizens not to be afraid of those people and to file complaints against them.

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