Amendments to Law in Jordan Restrict Press, Internet Freedom
Draft amendments to Jordan’s Press and Publications Law with regards to website content are the latest attempt by the Jordanian government to muzzle its critics and the media. Freedom House denounces these amendments as an affront to press freedom and calls upon the Jordanian parliament to vote against them.
The amendments, which were approved last week and must now pass through parliament, would require websites dealing with “press materials” to register with the Department of Press and Publication and pay a fee of more than $1,400 (1,000 Jordanian dinars). Websites would be obligated to appoint a chief editor who is a member of the Jordanian Press Council, and would be held accountable for all comments posted on their website. The General Manager of the Department of Press and Publication would have the authority to block websites - including those broadcasting from abroad - if they breach the law.
If passed, these amendments will severely restrict free speech and expression online and contradict Jordan’s previous commitment to internet freedom.
Jordan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012 and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2011. Since Arab Spring protests occurred across the region, the government has sought to tighten its grip amid rising opposition from activists. Charges against Jordanian citizens for “criticizing the king” occur regularly. While the government approved a code of conduct several years ago with the intention of fostering a “free and independent media,” journalists still are closely watched by intelligence agencies and face harassment. Bloggers have been arrested by Jordanian authorities, and as a result, many practice self-censorship. Earlier this month, a satellite channel was closed after airing views that were critical of royal officials.