CIVICUS

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Jordan

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Last updated on 30.04.2019 at 14:20

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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Jordan: amended laws for labour and cybercrime  restrict civic space

Jordan: amended laws for labour and cybercrime restrict civic space

During the first months of 2019, Jordan passed legislative amendments to the Labour Code and Cybercrime Law that violate the rights to freedom of association and threaten freedom of expression. Civil society groups actively opposed these changes and demanded a revision of these laws.

During the first months of 2019, Jordan passed legislative amendments to the Labour Code and Cybercrime Law that violate the rights to freedom of association and threaten freedom of expression. Civil society groups actively opposed these changes and demanded a revision of these laws.

Association

Between January and March 2019, the Jordan House of Representatives and the Senate passed amendments to the Labour Code that remain restrictive for freedom of association and would violate workers' rights. The amendments were opposed by the Jordan Federation of Independent Trade Unionsand theInternational Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

In April 2019, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) sent a letter addressed at the Jordanian King calling for the revision of the Labour Code, for it to be brought in accordance with the international labour standards. Article 98 of the Labour Code violates the right to freedom of association as it provides that unions can only be organised in government designated sectors and there may only be one per sector, which excludes independent unions. Jordan Federation of Independent Trade Unions also demanded the abolition of Article 98 of the Labour Code as it restricts the right of workers to form and join unions. The amendments further provide for government interference in the registering of unions, as they make it a requirement for the Ministry of Labour to approve union bylaws when they register with the government and also give the Ministry the authority to dissolve unions, and to impose fines and imprisonment for those who continue union activities when an union has been dissolved.

Additionally, the Labour Code denies the right to join or form unions to certain groups:

  • By setting 18 as the minimum age for accessing union membership, although persons who attained the age of 16 years work, excludes workers 16-18 years of age.
  • The law remains unclear with regard to domestic and agricultural workers to form or join unions.
  • Excludes migrant workers: despite the fact that Jordan hosts more than 315,000 registered migrant workers, the law does not permit them to form unions.

Expression 

Freedom of expression threatened by new amendments of the cybercrime law

In April 2019, MENA Rights Group, a Geneva-based legal advocacy NGO, revealed that the latest amendments of the Cybercrime Law still failed to address concerns raised by civil society and the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and continue to threaten freedom of expression. According to the MENA Rights Group, the draft has not been made public yet, but a copy was obtained by Jordanian civil society groups. As covered on the CIVICUS Monitor in the December 2018 update, the draft cybercrime law was withdrawn on 9th December 2018 following pressure by the civil society and representatives of political parties, as well as from the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, who expressed concerns that the draft amendments failed to meet international standards governing freedom of expression online.

The latest amendments to Cybercrime Law No. 27 of 2015 were introduced before the House of Representatives on 12th December 2018, few days after the opposed amendments were withdrawn and without any consultation with civil society. The move was criticised by civil society.

The MENA Rights Group called on the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression to intervene with the authorities once again, and ensure the Cybercrime draft is brought in accordance with the international human rights standards. The CSO highlighteda number of problematic amendments that can lead to censorship or be used as tools to suppress freedom of expression. The MENA Rights Group raised concern that the draft provides an "excessively vague" definition of hate speech that could easily be used to criminalise criticism from activists and HDRs; it continues to criminalise defamation on social media or online media outlets; introduces penalties including prison terms to up to two years for publishing “fake news” and “rumours”, without clear definitions of those terms. Of further concern is the introduction of a specialised court to hear complaints without strong guarantees for its independence.

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.