BY INSI

SAFETY ADVISORY: Jordan as at 22/01/13

The safety advisory issued on 11/12/12 was updated on 22/01/13 to include a section about the international airport. 

General comments

Jordan has always been a calm peaceful country however Amman, the capital, is a simmering place at the moment. The security in the country is now being beefed up. The changes at the airport are a stark reminder of this.

Small anti-government protests over the past 23 months have shifted focus from dissatisfaction with the government to calls for the end of the monarchy. Essentially, the situation could stabilise or deteriorate depending on King Abdullah II’s decisions.

More random violence by the security forces has been seen as recently as November with security forces using tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters.

Main problems journalists are reporting to INSI

Some taxi drivers carry a weapon in the car, so you need to be conscious of this. Be aware of leaving your computer open in your hotel and keep everything locked away and have padlocks for your luggage. There have been reports of thefts in many Jordanian hotels, however the security forces have been clamping down on this.

Weapons are becoming more commonplace in the streets. Corruption is being seen to be dealt with at the higher levels, however is still usual.

Conversations and communications

Jordan has one of the world's most renowned secret service networks; many are on their payroll; taxi drivers, hotel porters. All may filter information back to the main HUB so be careful about conversations at restaurants. Careful of loose talk, which may compromise your story.

Avoid telling taxi drivers you are a journalist when you get in the taxi, do ask them questions about their family and say how much you love the country and the King.

Know how much the taxi is going to cost you, so that you are already painting the picture for them that you know the country. Make out you like the country, try not to mention work and talk about other things.

Queen Alia International Airport

Arriving at the airport can be a confusing experience. It is not advisable to take the local unregistered drivers, who crowd you as you arrive. Look after your equipment as it is easy for people to wander off with pieces of your luggage in the hustle and bustle of arrivals. Tie it all together if you need to and anchor to the luggage trolley.

INSI's local source in Amman tells us you may be offered "special rates" either from the airport to central Amman or to get back from Amman to the international airport by the taxi drivers. There are no checks on these drivers and their vehicles may often by in a dilapidated state of repair. A working journalist in Amman has recently reported that her experience is something to be taken heed of. She accepted a lift from an unofficial taxi to go to the airport. The driver's 'brother' turned up in a car the next morning and then fell asleep while driving on the motorway going back to the airport...she was lucky to be alive and both very lucky not to be arrested as there are police speed checks and police along the airport road.

INSI's advice is to find the official taxi office, even if it is a scramble through the unofficial taxi drivers. There is a uniformed taxi 'manager' who will write you an official taxi receipt for your trip as well as let you know how much it will be in advance, so you don't get ripped off. You pay a bit more but it will be worth it. He is usually found by the main exit door, so take the time to do this and it will probably save you trouble later down the line.

Moving around Amman

Make sure you are clear of the security situation. If moving at night, have the correct documentation to allow you free passage so that you are not stopped or held by security forces. Ensure you have a local Arabic speaker to smooth the way if going to cover the protests, so you are aware of what the temperature of the crowd and the security forces is.

Knowing your roads is a must as well as understanding the road atmosphere. In Jordan , you have to drive more aggressively in order to avoid being in an accident. Make sure you are used to driving a left hand drive car if you are going to drive and get used to driving on the right hand side of the road first. Check that you have a spare wheel as some cars don't and the spares are often not reliable.

Information

You need to have good sources of information to make sure you know what is going on. Speak to everyone and try to make friends with the UN. Try to register with your Embassy contact there.

Try to get in touch with contact groups on the ground, which will tell you what is happening locally. The Fourth Circle has become a focal point.

Communications

Ensure you have adequate communications. The Government may cut off the mobile phone networks to prevent social networking sites being used to mobilise protesters, if the country simmers and boils over. You may wish to think about taking a satellite phone for use in an emergency.

Demonstrations, protests and civil unrest

Be aware that the security forces will want to keep control during protests at any cost. This may involve the use of more extreme measures to do so. Tear gas and water cannons have been used and may continue to be used if crowds are deemed to get out of hand. Be prepared (see below) and see INSI’s advice for covering demonstrations and other civil disorders here

Preparation for covering demonstrations, protests and general civil unrest 

• Have a plan – decide what your story really is, do you need to go there to get the story? Can you get the story another way? 

• Have a plan for emergencies and know the area. Do a map study and plan escape routes if confined to a square; it is easy for the security forces to block it off and not allow you out? Try to drive the area on a calm day, so you know the backstreets before you have to walk it

• If you are a broadcast journalist – try to send 3 people and stick together, film from a height if you can

• Individual journalists should try to go together with other journalists if possible – think safety in numbers and someone to watch your back

• Women may wish to consider if local conditions dictate, going with a male colleague and preferably someone who knows the area

• Find a local fixer to act as your guide. This may give you some level of protection

• You should consider taking an Arabic/English speaker with you to translate for you 

• Think, what time of the day do you need to go to get the story, can it be done during the day, which is safer than in the dark? 

• Think about whether you need to be there after dark and what is the story? Can you leave before it gets dark? 

• Be conscious that foreigners may be seen as spies or Israeli agents

• Vibes – take a temperature of the mood in the morning – who is there, what are they doing?

Transport and routes in 

• Think about transport to get there, have a car on standby as near to the area as possible for use in the event of an emergency

• Ensure you have communications with them, so you can get them to assist you if you require it

• Think about your approaches to the demonstration and your exit routes if the crowd becomes violent

Clothing for women covering demonstrations/protests

Wear long trousers with high waists and tight belts

Wear large knickers under the trousers; tuck a vest top into the knickers underneath any blouse you wear

Make sure that blouses are large fitting and cover all flesh to the wrist. They should be high necked and not show off chest

Avoid wearing jewelry, keep watches in pockets and wear cheap sunglasses

Consider wearing a lightweight gilet (sleeveless lightweight jacket) to cover up and if there are pockets you can carry batteries or notebooks in it and give you some protection of the chest areas

Considering using a backpack so you can carry it on your front for personal security and to cover breast and intimate areas at the front of the body

There are some very unsafe areas in and around Amman; particularly the poorer parts and these are not the sorts of places to be seen with a map out.

Extraction planning when attending demonstrations

Make sure you have a good communications plan with your office or a contact in Jordan.

Make sure you have an agreed check in procedure depending on local events; if heated it may be each hour or day.

Ensure you have an extraction plan for any coverage of civil unrest and demonstrations. The security forces will often barricade the demonstrators in with the aim of containing them.

No one will be allowed to leave the location; often for several hours.

Thoughts for consideration

Familiarize yourself with the layout of the local area where you will be working

Jordan has always been safe, but local protests have demonstrated that the country has the potential to become more violent. Be conscious that the country may well change quickly.

If your fixer or your local guide says it is time to leave, trust them

Contact INSI if you require an equipment list or further information for working in hostile environments.

Hannah Storm (Director of INSI) - [email protected]]


Protesters chant slogans at a demonstration against government corruption in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. The placard reads in Arabic, "the people wants to reform the regime." (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)