#Maanash fightback against new 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.