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Jordan Orders Expulsion of NBC TV Correspondent

April 30, 1988

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ The government on Saturday ordered an NBC television correspondent to leave the country after he reported that Jordan has a ″tightly controlled and at times even repressive society.″

Correspondent Rick Davis, one of only a small number of American television correspondents based in Arab countries, was given a week to leave Jordan.

Information Minister Hani Hassawneh said Davis’ feature about Jordan on NBC’s ″Sunday Today″ was ″clearly against the country.″

He also accused the correspondent of ″breaking the ethics of reporting″ by complaining about security and Information Ministry officials.

Davis said NBC would protest the government action, but he said he could not comment further until consulting with the network headquarters in New York. Davis, who has worked for NBC for 13 years, has reported on the Middle East since 1979 and has been based in Jordan since March 1985.

In New York, Lawrence K. Grossman, president of NBC News, issued a statement addressed to King Hussein. It said:

″Your majesty, we protest in the strongest possible terms the expulsion of NBC News correspondent Rick Davis from the kingdom of Jordan. Mr. Davis, the only American television network correspondent stationed in an Arab country, is a veteran reporter who has been ably covering Jordan and the Middle East continually for the past three years. His journalistic efforts have been widely recognized as being fair, insightful, authoritative and intelligent. It is indeed shameful that Jordan has now joined Israel in denying press credentials to a distinguished and expert NBC news corresponsdent stationed within its borders.″

Mary Lou O’Callahan, director of news information for NBC, said Jordanian Information Ministry officials indicated the network could replace Davis, but no decision has been made by NBC.

The action against Davis came four days after neighboring Israel, technically at war with Jordan, suspended the press credentials of NBC correspondent Martin Fletcher and Washington Post reporter Glenn Frankel.

Israel said they violated censorship rules by failing to submit for clearance stories alleging that Israel was behind the assassination in Tunisia of PLO military chief Khalil Wazir.

In his profile of Jordan, Davis referred to Jordan as ″tightly controlled and at times even repressive society.″ He noted that the headquarters of the ″not-so-secret police″ is sometimes termed ″the Palestinian hotel″ because of the Palestinian activists often imprisoned there.

The program also included a clip of radical Palestinian leader George Habash accusing King Hussein of a ″barbarous massacre″ of Palestinian civilians during the Black September fighting between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Jordanian army in 1970. Thousands of people died.

Hassawneh said the program ″insulted King Abdullah,″ Jordan’s first ruler and grandfather of King Hussein, by saying the British appointed Abdullah emir when Jordan was created as a British protectorate after World War I.

″It was very clear to us he was a very biased man,″ Hassawneh said.

American networks once kept correspondents in Beirut, Lebanon, to cover the Arab world, but pulled them out after journalists became targets of kidnappers in 1985 and 1986.

They now rely largely on term-contract journalists and free-lancers based in Egypt, Lebanon and other Arab countries, and they send in Europe-based staff correspondents for major stories.

Journalists rarely have been expelled from Jordan in recent years, although the Information Ministry in 1986 blacklisted two Israel-based Western reporters for stories about Jordanian suppression of demonstrations.

King Hussein quickly lifted those bans.

Update hourly