Oct 6, 2021 - World

Jordanian media ignores Pandora Papers bombshell about king's homes

King Abdullah in 2018. Photo: Jordan Pix/Getty Images

Amman, Jordan — The bombshell “Pandora papers” disclosures about King Abdullah II's multimillion-dollar real-estate holdings don't currently look like a major blow to the king's domestic standing, in part because local media have steered clear.

Driving the news: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reported that King Abdullah had purchased several houses worth more than $106 million in the U.S. and U.K. during his reign, using offshore companies.

  • The palace admitted that the country’s fourth monarch does in fact own real estate in the U.S. and Europe, and it claimed the purchases had been kept outside the public eye for security reasons, to protect the royal family.
  • The statement seemed to help to defuse the situation domestically.

Between the lines: The story has hardly appeared in local media in Jordan, with most publishers practicing self-censorship and one online outlet that did publish the reports, Ammannet.net, being asked to take them down three hours later.

  • The director of the government's media commission, Tareq Abu Ragheb, claimed the media had not been pressured.
  • Instead, he told Axios, outlets had been careful “not to fall in the trap of publishing information that is considered a breach of the personal information of His Majesty the King and his need for security and thus allow themselves to be a gun in the hands of those who wish to harm the King.”
  • Some Jordanians say the disclosures are hardly a surprise. Others rationalized to Axios that the king had used his private money, not funds from international donors or the country's coffers.

“It is a serious crisis, but people are afraid of instability and therefore it will not make a big difference," says Lamis Andoni, a political analyst and former lecturer at UC Berkeley.

  • “It will increase distrust in the government and the palace, and the only way to deal with this problem is to have accountability and transparency," Andoni said, suggesting that the palace start by publishing details of its budget.

Worth noting: The Pandora Papers reports were published the same day that King Abdullah took the dramatic step of speaking to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the first time in a decade.

  • The call is part of a realization by the Jordanian government that it shouldn't wait for the U.S. or other parties to bring about a solution in Syria, and it should instead bring relations with its neighbor back to normal, Abdel Majid Dandies of the left-wing Popular Unity party told Axios.
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