CSOs raise concern about new draft Cybercrimes law
In late July 2023, the Jordanian Parliament began debating a draft Cyber Crime law which, if passed, will replace the 2015 cyber crimes law. Civil society expressed concern that the draft law fails to meet international human rights standards, noting that it contains broad and vague provisions, increases online censorship and weakens online anonymity, among other restrictions. The draft law seeks to criminalise publishing the names or pictures of public officials without authorisation, uses vague terms such as “fake news,” “promoting, instigating, aiding or inciting immorality,” “online assassination of personality,” “provoking strife,” “undermining national unity,” and “contempt for religions” which would open opportunity for abuse by authorities.
CSOs also voiced concern about the government’s haste to pass the Bill, and the failure by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers' Legislation and Opinion Bureau to publish the Bill online for two weeks for public participation, as per procedure.
Civil society sent a joint letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives calling for broader consultations on the Bill. In addition, political parties, media professionals and CSOs opposing the law formed a Coordinating Committee to call for the withdrawal of the Bill.
Chief Editor of the online news site Jo24.net Basil Okoor, told OCCRP that if the law passes, "it will turn Jordan into a big jail with everyone scared to open their mouths."
بعد مرور شهر على عرس أمير الأردن حسين بن عبدالله الثاني، حَجبت السلطات موقع «شبكة الحدود» من دون توضيحٍ أو تصريح. المُتوقّع أن سبب الحجب يعود إلى المحتوى الساخر الذي نشرته «الحدود» بالتزامن مع العرس، وهو محتوى تعيد ميغافون نشره هنا.— Megaphone (@megaphone_news) July 5, 2023
يُشار إلى أن السلطات الأردنية تُمارس رقابةً… pic.twitter.com/v8Wlpx93ba
In separate developments, Jordanian authorities blocked the popular Middle East-focused satire website, al-Hudood for what is believed to be in relation to satirical content published by the website about the royal wedding. "Where did the prince get all this money to cover the cost of the wedding?" read one of Al-Hudood's posts after the wedding.
Justin Shilad, PEN America’s research and advocacy lead for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“Blocking a website that publishes satire shows intolerance toward criticism that is troubling, particularly when the same site is readily accessible in neighboring countries where the state of free expression is far more dire.”
Protests against the draft Cyber Crime bill (See expression section) were organised demanding the cancellation of the law. On 30th July 2023, the coordinating committee formed to oppose the draft Cyber Crime law (see expression sction) organised a demonstration in the capital’s centre to protest the adoption of the draft law. The protest was attended by hundreds of citizens, human rights CSOs, activists and politicians.
📢New CCBE Letter in support of #Endangeredlawyers in 🇯🇴 #Jordan: The CCBE is concerned over the death threats, defamation and smear campaign that has been taking place against lawyer Hala Ahed and call on the national authorities to ensure her safety: https://t.co/WZgvCCqoLa pic.twitter.com/S9vHlCtB1z— CCBE (@CCBEinfo) July 17, 2023
Lawyer and human rights defender Hala Ahed, who received the 2023 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk in May 2023, fell victim to a smear campaign that commenced on 15th June 2023 and spread across various social media platforms, lasting for several days. The smear campaign followed Al-Ahed’s announcement on 13th June 2023 that she would launch a course in Jordan focused on "learning about feminism and its principles" in coordination with the NGO Ahel. Following this, the lawyer received a backlash from people accusing her of trying to impose a western model of feminist ideology on Jordan, a still largely conservative kingdom. Online incitement campaigns escalated, accusing Ahed of “abandoning her faith” and “advancing malicious Western agendas,” even going so far as to call for the revocation of her Jordanian citizenship. Several solidarity campaigns were launched for Hala.