Investigative journalists working with Jordan’s Community Media Network – which runs AmmanNet and Radio al Balad, and which I am proud to manage – were among the hundreds of professional journalists worldwide carefully selected by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on the basis of geography and previous experience to participate in coverage of the millions of leaked documents known as the “Panama Papers”.
For our part of the project, we were given information on more than a thousand Jordanian citizens who had set up offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, Jersey or Luxembourg. The information included company registration, the names of the real company owners and email exchanges between these owners and the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm, now famous for registering companies in tax havens.
While the natural priority in such cases is to investigate individuals of high political calibre, such as government officials, we preferred to look at someone other than the only senior official whose name appeared on the list made available to us – Ali Abu al-Ragheb, Jordan’s prime minister from 2000-2003, who had a number of companies registered in his name. For us, the name Khaled Shaheen was much more interesting. He had the largest number of companies registered offshore – 26 – and the web of companies that the Panama Papers revealed helped explain many corruption stories that the public was not aware of.
But having chosen a person – Shaheen – who had been convicted and had spent time in jail, while avoiding a former prime minister, has not been enough to keep us out of hot water. While no one has officially complained or attempted directly to stop us, we have been under various forms of indirect pressure, including from lawyers and phone calls from security officials.
The Jordanian government has not cooperated at all with our investigation. Requests to Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and to the national company register for information about Jordanian offshore companies involved in current public government tenders went unanswered. The prime minister stated following publication of the Panama Papers that there had not been any corruption issue in Jordan in the last five years.
But the only way that this statement could be verified is if the government were totally transparent about an issue such as the participation of these anonymously owned offshore companies in tenders over that time period. While being registered offshore is not by itself proof of corruption, the fact that companies whose owners are not known participate in Jordanian tenders opens up huge questions as to whether any government officials had a conflict of interest by possibly being an owner in one or more of these offshore companies.
Perhaps the most interesting, though not the most surprising, aspect of the research and publication of the Jordanian leg of the Panama Papers is the utter failure of the rest of the Jordanian media to pick up on the story or to publish follow-up stories and opinions. While the two partly government-owned newspapers Al Raiand Ad Dustour completely avoided the subject, the independent daily Al Ghad did write about the global repercussions of the Panama Papers, but failed to tackle the local issues revealed by our investigation.
The failure to follow up on this important public issue leaves open the question of how independent the Jordanian media is and whether media outlets are also implicated in problems of conflict of interest or even, possibly, of being part of offshore company schemes.
The digital revolution has provided professional investigative journalists with a unique opportunity to deal with documents and facts that have never been available to them through normal access to information laws. If the experience of the Panama Papers has proven anything, it has shown that efforts by governments and the private sector to keep basic information away from the public is utterly useless in an age of leaked information and well-organised and networked investigative journalists.
Daoud Kuttab is general director of the Community Media Network (which runs AmmanNet and Radio al Balad) and a member of the International Press Institute’s (IPI) Executive Board.
A Sa’ar 4.5-class Corvette of the Israeli Navy fires its canons during a naval exercise off the coast of Israel.
Israel’s Defense Ministry on Sunday announced a series of deals for the purchase of combat systems from local defense industries in the amount of $420 million by the end of this year. This is part of a project to acquire warships whose mission would to protect natural gas platforms within Israel’s “economic waters” in the Mediterranean against military threats.
An Israeli soldier training in Krav Maga.
Several dozen members of the Indian military are currently learning how to protect themselves using the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga, India Today reported this weekend.
“I brought Krav Maga to India in year 2002 after intensive training in Israel,” Vikram Kapoor — the head instructor at the International Krav Maga Federation — was quoted as saying. “This is the only self-defense technique that is being evolved every moment and that is why it is the best.”
Culminating a three-year process, delegates at the Mennonite Church USA assembly in Orlando on Thursday adopted a resolution titled “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine,” with approximately 98 percent voting in favor. The resolution calls on members to “avoid purchase of products associated with the occupation or produced in settlements in occupied territories.” It also establishes a process for the church to review its investments “for the purpose of withdrawing investments from companies that are profiting from the occupation.”
Rabbi Steven Wernick says Netanyahu recruited progressive Jews to find a compromise for the holy site; now that the PM has reneged, world Jewry won’t be silent
The fight for pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall is a battle already won by Jewry’s Conservative movement. For some 20 years, Conservative Jews have inhabited a spiritual home at Jerusalem’s contentious holy site, which they won through a series of Supreme Court cases — in a section allocated to the Davidson Archaeological
Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. (Photo credit: hebron.com)
In a secret ballot held at the World Heritage Committee’s 41st annual summit in Krakow Poland, on Friday, UNESCO voted twelve to three in favor declaring the Holy City of Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs “Palestinian world heritage sites”.
The resolution described a Muslim history of the city while blatantly ignoring the Biblical narrative describing 3,000 years of Jewish connection to the site. Six countries abstained from the controversial vote which, at the request of Poland, Croatia, and Jamaica, was a secret ballot; a first for such a vote.
During last month’s 2017 Chicago Dyke March, the true face of “inclusion” among “progressives” finally surfaced. According to the Chicago based newspaper Windy City Times, the march proceeded calmly with people “of all races, genders and gender identities” attending, until “the Dyke March Collective ejected three people carrying Jewish Pride flags (a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center).”
Something is terribly broken in the relationship between American and Israeli Jews. I say this as an American Jew who has lived in Israel for almost half a century. But if anyone thinks this started with Women of the Wall or PM Netanyahu’s recent – and I believe unfortunate – backtracking on the agreement over egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, he is suffering from selective memory, if not total denial.
gentleman from times gone by. He was soft-spoken, courtly, and wore his pants hoisted high and held up by suspenders; clearly, a European who had personally endured horrors in the last century.
Indeed, he had personally survived the Holocaust in Poland. Therefore, I could not immediately understand why he now attends a very left-wing synagogue—but, totally incomprehensible, was his unexpected and rather passionate defense of Poland and of the Poles. He argued on their behalf as if his very life still depended upon it.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s decision to visit Jerusalem but not Ramallah has prompted much comment.
The expectation of equal treatment goes back to the Oslo Accords’ signing in Sep. 1993, when the prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, represented his government in the handshake with Yasir Arafat, the much-despised chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. No one found it strange or inappropriate at the time but things look differently nearly a quarter century later.
Matthew Healy at the Atlantic, one of the few remaining liberal anti-censorship magazines, offers a disingenuous counterpoint to the debate over political correctness.
The attempts to silence dissenting points of view are counter-speech, according to Healy. And counter-speech is an important form of free expression.