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Coronavirus: Owner of Jordan TV channel Roya arrested over report

News director and presenter Mohammad al-Khalidi also detained, with both men set to remain in custody for 14 days
News Director at Roya Mohammad al-Khalidi and the channel's owner Fares Sayegh (Screengrab\Ammannet)

Jordanian authorities arrested Roya TV channel's owner, Fares Sayegh, and its news director and presenter, Mohammad al-Khalidi, on Thursday, over broadcasting a report of Jordanians suffering financial difficulties due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Both Sayegh and Khalidi will remain in custody for 14 days, local media reported. 

Jordan is a cash-strapped kingdom with a national debt standing at $42.6bn in January 2020. A general lockdown was imposed on 20 March in towns and cities, and businesses were asked to shut amid fear of coronavirus' spread.

Numbers of infected people and Covid-19-related deaths remain relatively low in the kingdom, with 372 confirmed cases and seven dead. But as in many countries, Jordanians are said to be feeling the economic pinch without the ability to work or secure income.

Roya’s report showed one man and two women saying that they were going to be forced "to beg" and break the curfew orders, as they had been left without any income.

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All of them depended on daily wages, which were suddenly cut after businesses were shut down, according to the report.

The Jordanian government has not introduced a special scheme of social benefits for those suffering from the closures.

One of the Jordanians that appeared in Roya’s report and worked as a bus driver said he was left with no options other than “begging, theft or drug trafficking” to feed his family.

“There isn't a single shilling in my pocket,” he told the reporter, using a popular phrase dating back to the British Mandate.

One woman, whose son worked in a sweet shop, said that her family now has no gas, sugar, bread, rice or nappies.

She told Roya TV that she had applied to the government for social benefits but had not heard back, and her family now had no option but “to beg in the streets”.

Health Minister Saad al-Jaber said the lockdown would remain until 15 April, with universities, schools and places of worship shut, while "there are plans for a gradual opening in some sectors" after the middle of April.