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Jordan

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Last updated on 10.12.2018 at 12:16

Jordan-Overview

Mass citizen mobilisation across the Arab region in 2010 and 2011 resulted in a sense of empowerment for Jordanian civil society.

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#Maanash fightback against new law

#Maanash fightback against new law

On 30th November 2018, hundreds began protested against amendments to Jordan's Income Tax law. Organising using the hashtag, #Maanash” (we don’t have money) on social media, protesters gathered to decry hikes to fuel prices and the new law. In other developments, on 10th December 2018, Jordanian authorities announced the decision to withdraw the draft cybercrime law.

Peaceful Assembly

On 30th November 2018, hundreds protested against amendments to Jordan's Income Tax law. Organising using the hashtag, #Maanash (we don’t have money) on social media, protesters gathered to decry hikes to fuel prices and the new law. The new tax law hopes to generate increased revenue for public spending in 2019. To achieve this, the government has increased taxes, and lowered the threshold of those exempt from paying tax. This means that the lowest incomes will lose tax exemptions on medical treatment or education, thereby increasing their tax bills. The new law attracted controversy after it was rushed through Parliament without proper consultation earlier in 2018. The protests in November 2018 took place peacefully. 

Civil society groups in Jordan have been closely following amendments to Jordan's tax law. A coalition formed by CIVICUS Monitor partner, the Arab NGO Network for Development's (ANND) members and partners, Jordanian Women’s Union and Phenix Center and composed of 23 other organisations voiced their opposition to the proposal. The coalition called for the immediate withdrawal of the new law, which they claim will "exacerbate social inequality and the poverty crisis."

Expression

Regarding freedom of expression, social media mobilisation continues against the draft cybercrime law. As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, the draft has been criticised for unwarrantedly restricting freedom of expression. The amendments would impose hefty fines and up to three years in prison for sharing hate speech online. CSOs highlighted that the new provisions failed to provide safeguards to protect free speech. As such, it has been viewed as a press muzzle. In particular, Jordan’s Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists highlighted their concerns. In a statement, they said: 

“Article 11 of the bill allows for the imprisonment of journalists and social media activists and that the loose definition of hate speech will make any kind of criticism in any medium culpable, facing up to three years in prison. It’s not an issue of more laws but one of culture and changing people’s behaviour...It has to do with instilling free speech values and social responsibilities in schools so that future generations can exercise their right responsibly.”

The pushback by civil society was successful. On 10th December 2018, Jordanian authorities announced the decision to withdraw the draft law. According to government sources, the proposals will be revised and amended to adhere to existing regulations. The move was met with praise by civil society groups. Despite the good news, The Jordanian Press Association (JPA) called for the initiation of a structured dialogue between government officials and CSOs to protect freedom of expression. 

Association

The Jordanian constitution guarantees all individuals the freedom of association, which includes the right to form societies, political parties, unions and non-profit companies.

The Jordanian constitution guarantees all individuals the freedom of association, which includes the right to form societies, political parties, unions and non-profit companies. The 2009 Societies Law allows people to register with the government in order to establish an association, however the authorities can reject the request for registration without giving any justification. The law prevents organisations from conducting political activities or having any political objectives, terms that are not defined in the law and could lead to broad interpretation and abuse. Non-citizens are not allowed to form associations without obtaining special approval from the council of ministers. The Societies Law gives the government the right to interfere with the internal operations of civil society organisations, by allowing them to attend their gatherings and demanding to see financial reports. As regards external funding, the government requires all associations and non-profit companies to obtain approval to receive funds from foreign sources. Approval from the Social Development Ministry is required in order to receive local financial support.

Peaceful Assembly

The Jordanian constitutions’ protection of the right to freedom of assembly extends only to Jordanian citizens.

The Jordanian constitutions’ protection of the right to freedom of assembly extends only to Jordanian citizens. Amendments to the Public Gatherings Law allow individuals to gather without obtaining prior approval. However, notifying government authorities prior to such gatherings is required. The notification must include the names, addresses and signatures of the organisers, as well as details of the gathering’s purpose, time and place. In addition, the Penal Code still criminalises unlawful assemblies. Under Jordanian law, organisers are held accountable in case of riots and violence during public gatherings. The law also grants authorities the right to disperse gatherings likely to provoke violence and be detrimental to the public interest. Recently, police repression has been documented during a number of political and labour-oriented protests. There has also been a decline in the exercise of this right since authorities prevented or interrupted peaceful gatherings and arrested several participants.

Expression

The Jordanian Constitution guarantees the exercise the right to freedom of expression, however some laws limit the right in practice.

The Jordanian Constitution guarantees the exercise the right to freedom of expression, however some laws limit the right in practice. The Penal Code bans criticism of the King and government institutions, and the amended anti-terrorism law criminalises criticism of foreign leaders or states that is deemed to harm Jordan’s relations with those states. In September 2012, the Press and Publications Law was amended to introduce more restrictions on online media. In June 2013, this law was used to block almost 300 websites for failing to register with the Media Commission. A separate law on Information System Crimes extended provisions on free speech offences in the Penal Code to online expression. Under this restricted legal framework, journalists are subject to arrest and detention. In one incident of this type, journalist Jamal Ayoub, was arrested for writing an article critical of Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign in Yemen. In 2007, Jordan passed an access to information law, however it has yet to be properly implemented.