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Jordan arrests reporter for alleging officials secretly vaccinated

Jamal Haddad accused of ‘endangering public security and causing sedition and public disorder’

A member of the Jordanian health ministry's epidemiological investigation team takes a random nasal swab to test for coronavirus, from a man leaving the King Abdullah I mosque following the Friday noon prayers, in the capital Amman, on December 18, 2020. (Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)
A member of the Jordanian health ministry's epidemiological investigation team takes a random nasal swab to test for coronavirus, from a man leaving the King Abdullah I mosque following the Friday noon prayers, in the capital Amman, on December 18, 2020. (Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan has arrested a journalist over an article alleging the coronavirus vaccine had arrived in the kingdom and that officials had received the shot, a judicial source said Saturday.

“The state security court prosecutor ordered the arrest Thursday of journalist Jamal Haddad, editor of news website Al-Wakaai, for writing that government officials had been vaccinated against the coronavirus,” the source said.

Haddad had been accused of “endangering public security and causing sedition and public disorder,” the source told AFP, declining to be identified.

He was to be detained for 15 days while awaiting trial.

Al-Wakaai published Tuesday an article titled, “What about the people? Did the Pfizer (vaccine) arrive in secret, and have senior officials in the Jordanian government been vaccinated?”

Jordan announced in mid-December that it had approved emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.

Health ministry official Wael al-Hayajneh said Wednesday that the vaccine would arrive in the kingdom at the end of January or the start of February.

A source close to Haddad’s family told AFP on Saturday that the journalist had been transferred to hospital a day earlier “for high blood pressure and chest pain.”

The country’s journalists’ syndicate called for Haddad’s immediate release, saying his arrest “harms Jordan’s image.”

The state security court was “unable to judge matters relating to freedom of expression,” the union said in a statement, calling for the matter to be examined before civil courts.

Jordan has officially recorded more than 285,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and over 3,700 deaths.

Health Minister Nazir Obeidat said last month that vaccines would be distributed free of charge to Jordanians as well as foreign residents.

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