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AMMAN- Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Jordan to "respect the right to free expression" in the

‘The government is here to silence unwelcome voices’

Jordan urged not to censor news item critical of government regarding general election.

run up to the general election scheduled for November 9.

"In the past 10 days, authorities have arrested young people gathering for a rally calling for a boycott of the elections and censored a news item critical of the government," the New York-based rights group said in a statement.

The rally was organised by the youth office of the Popular Unity Party and follows a decision to pull out of the elections by the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In total, 18 people were detained for three hours before being released, with the authorities saying they had not obtained a permit for the gathering.

"The government should persuade Jordanians to participate in elections with the strength of its arguments, not the bullying of its censors," said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at HRW.

"‘The government is here to silence unwelcome voices’ could be an apt slogan for the arrest of campaigners who sought to bring their concerns directly to the attention of the prime minister," Wilcke said

HRW also said 35 students were arrested on October 9 at their teacher's farm in Madba, south of the capital Amman, accused of campaigning for a boycott of the vote.

IAF officials said the Islamist students had been held for several hours before being released.

The IAF leadership ordered the election boycott in protest at the constituency boundaries set for the November 9 poll which it says overrepresent rural areas considered loyal to the government at the expense of urban areas regarded as Islamist strongholds.

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