Al-Jazeera says Jordan staff receive death threats

AP News
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Posted: Apr 06, 2011 7:36 AM
Al-Jazeera says Jordan staff receive death threats

Al-Jazeera's bureau chief in the Jordanian capital Amman said Wednesday he and his staff have received death threats and have asked for police protection.

Yasser Abu Hilala said the anonymous threats surfaced on Facebook, radio stations and a private Jordanian TV channel in the past two weeks and were meant to incite violence against him and his team. He declined to provide further details.

The New York-based advocacy group Committee to Protect Journalists has urged Jordanian authorities to investigate the threats.

Jordanian police spokesman Mohammad al-Khateeb said on Wednesday authorities are ready to investigate but had not received official complaints from the Arabic-satellite channel. He said police nevertheless stationed cars outside al-Jazeera's offices in Amman.

Abu Hilala, however, said the channel presented an official request to Jordan's top security official to investigate the issue and place an electronic tracer on its Internet provider to detect who was behind the threats.

He said the threats followed the channel's coverage of pro-reform protests in Jordan in which Abu Hilala described pro-government protesters as "baltagia," or thugs, and accused them of being responsible for an outbreak of violence.

The term was widely criticized by ordinary Jordanians on Facebook and other Internet sites. They accused Abu Hilala of using a word alien to Jordanian society, failing to respect journalistic objectivity and leaning toward the opposition.

The pro-government protesters are mainly Bedouin tribesmen, who form the bedrock of support for King Abdullah II.

"I did not create the term, 'baltagia,' Abu Hilala said. "It's been used widely before I said it. And now I believe it is these people who are behind these threats."

Jordanian riot police broke up a pro-democracy rally on March 25 in the capital's central square after activists and government supporters clashed. The worst incident of violence in three months of demonstrations in this key U.S. ally left one man dead and 120 injured.