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Funny Arabs? Jordan arrests satirical weekly's editors | AMMAN, Jordan (UPI) -- Jordanian authorities have arrested two editors of a local satirical weekly for publishing "offensive" material deemed "harmful" to the Gulf state of Qatar, judicial sources said Thursday.

They said the chief editor of al-Jazira weekly, Sakher Abu Anzeh, and another editor, Maamoun Roussan, were arrested on Wednesday and ordered detained by the State Security Court prosecutors for two weeks pending investigation.

The sources said the editors were arrested on charges of "slander" against Qatar's emir and foreign minister, as well as "damaging ties with a brotherly country" and printing false information.

The paper this week published an edited photo image of Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, wearing a woman's minidress and singing into a microphone while Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani appeared in a belly dancer's costume.

It also dedicated several pages to blasting Qatar as a "nest of spies" and describing the oil-rich state as a collaborator of Israel and the United States.

The weekly was responding to a program on the Qatar-based al-Jazeera Satellite Channel in which speakers labeled the Jordanian leadership as a "historic traitor," unleashing a media campaign against the channel and Qatar by the official and mainstream press.

The government retaliated against the al-Jazeera channel by shutting down the channel's bureau in the capital, Amman, and withdrawing the credentials of its staff. Jordan also recalled its ambassador in Qatar "for consultations."

Ironically, the al-Jazira weekly, which has no connection with the television channel, welcomed in an editorial the government's closing down of al-Jazeera channel's bureau as a "first positive step that should be followed by the closing of the spying Qatari Embassy in Amman."

Independent journalists criticized the arrest of the weekly's editors by the State Security Court prosecutors as setting a "dangerous precedent" in cracking down on the press, particularly on independent weeklies.

Last year, the government introduced controversial provisional amendments to the press and publications law in the absence of a parliament. These amendments allowed the authorities to imprison journalists and close down newspapers that allegedly violate a long list of taboos.

Officials said the law, which has been sharply criticized by local and international rights groups, was aimed at "organizing" the "yellow press," or sensational weeklies, rather than the mainstream press.

Local journalists accused the authorities of being selective in implementing the law by cracking down on the weekly editors while allowing the official press more leeway in criticism.

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