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New and amended laws provide the authorities with excessive powers to restrict freedom of expression, especially online.

The briefing material for Jordan has been prepared by and is endorsed by the following organisations:

The Jordanian authorities have stepped up media control since the previous UPR cycle, especially with regard to online media. The overhaul of the Press and Publications Law in 2012, the Cybercrimes Law (2015) and its 2018 amendments significantly curtail freedom of expression.

In June 2016 university professor Amjad Qourshah was detained in connection with a video published on his Facebook page in 2014, which criticised Jordan’s participation in the US-led coalition’s bombing of Islamic State. In August 2016, author Nahed Hattar was detained and charged with insulting religion for publishing a cartoon critical of Islamic State on his Facebook page.

The Qourshah and Hattar cases form two of a growing list of gag orders imposed by the Jordan Media Commission. Gag orders are increasingly used to restrict the dissemination of information or artistic expression that would be of public interest and should be protected under freedom of expression standards.

Ensure that all surveillance of communications is conducted with respect for the right to privacy and complies with Jordan’s national and international human rights obligations

  • Initiate the process to legislate on communication surveillance by state entities, ensuring that all activities comply with national and international human rights obligations, including the principles of necessity and proportionality

  • Review all licensing agreements that oblige the private sector to conduct communications surveillance to ensure compliance with international human rights standards

There is little independent or judicial scrutiny of government interference with private exchanges, the gathering of personal data and surveillance of communications, and limited information available about the surveillance powers and practices of the Jordanian authorities.

The Anti-Terrorism Law (2006) lacks the substantive and procedural safeguards needed to ensure any access to data is lawful, necessary and proportionate.

An amendment in May 2018 to the regulations governing transportation applications grants the administrative, security and judicial authorities direct access to the servers and databases of apps such as Uber and local equivalent Careem, enabling them to monitor passengers and their movements without the need for a request or a court order, regardless of whether or not the users are under judicial investigation.

Amend regulations for filtering online content and other forms of online censorship in line with freedom of expression standards, and provide means for citizens to appeal the blocking of content

Jordan continues to censor content online using the Press and Publication law, administrative decisions, and public prosecution orders. It is unclear which authorities are able to issue orders to censor websites and there is no process to appeal content censorship.

Jordan’s Press and Publication Law was amended in 2012 to grant the Media Commission the authority to block “news websites” without an editor-in-chief who is a member of the Jordan Press Association. Following the amendment, 291 websites were immediately blocked.

In 2017, the Jordanian Media Commission ordered the blocking of My.Kali, an online pan-Arab LGBT magazine, because it had not applied for a licence in accordance with the Press and Publication Law. Jordan also has blocked licensed websites seemingly for failing to adhere to strict editorial guidelines.

  • Amend the Press and Publications Law to clarify the definition of ‘news website’ and remove the conditions requiring for such websites to have a Press Association member for four years as editor-in-chief and employ five full time people in order to be eligible for the license

  • Ensure content censorship is conducted in line with international standards, make clear who has the regulatory power to block content, and provide open data on which content is blocked

Amend the Cybercrime Law and Penal Code, ensuring their compliance with international human rights standards and that their provisions do not limit freedom of opinion and expression

  • Revise the definition of hate speech in the Cybercrime Law to specifically include the terms “incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” and to include the element of intent

  • Protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression of all Jordanian citizens, both online and offline

The Penal Code defines defamation as “assaulting the dignity and honor of another person or his/her reputation”. Written defamation (“through the use of what is published and disseminated among people or distributed among a group, whether it [be] writings [or] drawings”) is a criminal offence.

Defamation offences, along with ‘hate speech’ are subject to even more severe penalties under the 2018 amendments of the Cybercrimes Law. Article 11 provides a minimum prison term of 3 months for defamation. Criminal sanctions for defamation are generally inconsistent with Article 19 of the ICCPR.

The definition of “hate speech” (“any statement or act that would incite discord, religious, sectarian, racial or ethnic strife or discrimination”) and the penalties for disseminating it do not comply with ICCPR. The broad provisions and lack of an objective process to determine instances of “hate speech” is likely to restrict legitimate forms of expression.

Revise and adopt the proposed data protection law through an inclusive and transparent process and establish an independent body with sufficient funding and appropriate powers to enforce it

In September 2018, the ICT Ministry published the third draft of a data protection bill. The bill does not establish an independent data protection authority, and contains insufficient guidelines on data protection. It should be strengthened along these lines and should be provided with sufficient fundings, powers and human resources in order to be able to fulfil its mission.

Threats to the privacy of Jordanians come in many forms. Major companies have reported data breaches without having to deal with any legal liability for the lack of a personal data protection framework. Until companies are held liable for data breaches, the right to privacy of Jordanians will not be adequately protected. The state is not upholding its responsibility to protect its citizens’ right to privacy from mismanagement of personal data gathered by private companies.

Jordan is increasingly introducing data intensive systems, including e-government services that gather sensitive biometric data, without clear legal protection for the data collected.

Earlier Event: November 6
Later Event: May 14