Or at least that is what is implied, because Article 150 of the country’s penal code, for which he has been charged, states that:
“Any writing or speech that has the purpose or result of stirring up sectarian or racial prejudice or incitement to conflict between different sects or elements of the nation, shall be punishable by imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than three years and a fine of not more than two hundred Jordanian dinars“(€236).
Thus, on Tuesday 29 June 2021, the Jordanian cartoonist Osama Hajjaj (Twitter / Facebook ) had to appear in court to explain and clarify (sic) this cartoon on family planning in Jordan.
The cartoon was shown by the private television channel Roya TV and later deleted after both the channel and the cartoonist received a large number of complaints and negative comments. In view of the reactions, the cartoonist immediately explained on his Facebook page (post now deleted or private) that it was a misunderstanding and that his cartoon was about birth control from a social perspective and not from a religious perspective.
Soon after, Hajjaaj received notice of a complaint filed by two lawyers which resulted in legal proceedings under Section 150 of the Penal Code and Section 15 of the Cybercrime Act, this section states that: “Whoever commits any offence punishable under any applicable law by using the information network or any information system or website, or participates, interferes or abets in the commission thereof, shall be punishable with the penalty stipulated in such law”
The cartoonist, accompanied by his lawyer, was released from the hearing, although he has been placed under a travel ban and is awaiting the outcome of the investigation by the Ministry of Public Affairs, which will determine the possibility of a trial. He faces between one and three years in prison and a fine of 200 Jordanian dinars.
Hajjaj is a member of Cartooning for Peace and from the website of this collective have expressed their solidarity with the cartoonist and announced that they will closely follow the investigation. They call for all charges to be dropped, considering that the cartoonist declared in good faith that he did not want to offend the religion of his country From Cartoon Movement they also appeal to the cartoonist’s innocence and call for all charges to be dropped.
Threatened with death by Islamic State
In May 2015 Osama Hajjaj received several death threats on social media and by email allegedly from the Islamic State organisation because of some of his cartoons.
The death threats began after he published a cartoon in the newspaper Al Rai and on Twitter in which he sought to denounce the oppression of women in countries where Sharia law is applied. The threats continued for several days after the publication of other cartoons.
Osama was then forced by his employer, the advertising agency Rubicam & Young Advertising, to sign a document in which he agreed not to draw cartoons about religion and politics. When his newspaper Al Rai went bankrupt, his only source of income became working for the agency. Nevertheless, Osama did not give up drawing.
There are so many things about this kind of process that seem absurd to me that I wouldn’t know where to start. To begin with, it is sad and ridiculous in almost equal measure that a comedian should have to explain, “clarify” or justify his jokes to a judge under threat of a prison sentence and that this should be called an “investigation”, but it is even more ridiculous that he should have to prove that he did not want to offend something as abstract as “religion” in an act that seems more like a surrender and a plea for forgiveness than a defence of his freedom of expression.
Emad, twice in court
The last Jordanian cartoonist to be arrested for a cartoon was another Jordanian cartoonist with the same surname, Emad Hajjaj same surname, Emad Hajjaj.
Emad was arrested on 25 August 2020 for a joke about the Israel-United Arab Emirates deal that was deemed “insulting” to the country. The cartoon was published in Al Araby Al Jadeed (New Arab), a London-based pan-Arab media outlet. The cartoonist faced a possible prison sentence of up to 5 years.
On 23 December 2020, the Amman Criminal Court decided to terminate the judicial proceedings against the cartoonist and dropped the charges.
It was also not the first time that Emad had had to deal with the courts over a drawing. In 2017 he was investigated for insulting religion for a cartoon which was published ( screenshot ) on Sunday 29 October 2017 on abumahjoobnews.com and shortly after was taken down.
Humour in trouble, compilation of cases (III)
Cases of cartoonists who have had problems of some importance because of their cartoons or satirical illustrations. There are also some stories of other people who, without being cartoonists, have got into trouble for sharing them.