Jordan media up in arms over new online controls

Jordanian journalists voiced alarm on Wednesday over newly approved amendments to the press and publication law, warning that they threatened freedom of expression particularly in the online media.

Political analysts said the new legislation was a retrograde step that undermined promises of reform made in the midst of last year's Arab Spring revolts and threatened to tarnish Jordan's international image.

King Abdullah II issued a decree on Monday night approving the law in its new form, after parliament passed the amendments that require the country's 220 news websites to obtain licences from the government, which can censor content and hold journalists liable for posted comments.

The amendments also stipulate that website chief editors must be members of the Jordan Press Association.

"We reject this restrictive law that threatens press freedom and online expression," said Mohammad Ghneim of the Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists.

"The law will also affect social networks, blogs and access to information, especially now that Jordan is witnessing pro-reform protests and people have the right to know what is going now."

Nearly half the country's 6.8 million people are Internet users.

Journalists demonstrated on Saturday against the new changes after many news websites joined a "blackout," switching their homepages to black in protest at the legislation.

"We refuse to be terrorised," read a banner carried by journalists during a sit-in.

"You could be deprived of this content under this law and government censorship," said a message posted on the homepage of a local news site.

"The government seeks to control independent media and news websites, which are widely read by Jordanians," Basel Akur, editor of Jo24 website, told AFP.

"Online media played a key role in the Arab Spring, publishing people's views and positions. The government does not like this."

Jordan has been largely spared the kind of protests that have swept eastwards from Tunisia across the Arab world since early 2011, but it still sees regular demonstrations demanding political and economic reform and an end to corruption.

"A siege mentality controls the way the government thinks," said Mohammad Fdeilat, who runs Ammannet news site.

"The government has been trying for years to control news websites as people demand more freedoms."

But Information Minister Samih Maayatah defended the law.

"The law protects people's rights by ensuring that freedom of expression is practised in a responsible manner," he told AFP.

"It encourages news website to be more professional and helps enhance the media."

Some journalists agreed.

"We did not take part in the 'blackout' campaign because we think the situation of news websites needs to be organised," said Mohammad Hawamdeh, managing editor of the popular Khaberni news website.

"I do not think the law limits our freedom. These measures are important to stop unprofessional practices."

Wael Jaraisheh, managing editor of Ammon news, another popular website, echoed that view.

"We reject attempts to suppress freedoms, but at the same time a modern law to organise the work of news websites is a must," Jaraisheh told AFP.

Political analysts saw the hand of conservatives within the kingdom's establishment as behind the new legislation.

"It is illogical to come up with such a law while the authorities talk of reforms," said Mohammad Masri, a researcher at the University of Jordan's Centre for Strategic studies.

"It is obvious that conservatives are behind this law, which is a disturbing sign of backwardness.

Political analyst Oraib Rintawi said the law was "a step in the wrong direction."

"Almost everybody was against this law but the government did not listen," Rintawi, who heads the Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies, told AFP.

"We realise that some online excesses need to be curbed. But at the same time the government should not punish all media because of that.

"This will affect the image of Jordan and violate international treaties," he warned. "The media need support not censorship."

The amendments drew renewed criticism of Jordan from international human rights watchdogs.

"The government has long imposed restrictions on how Jordanians may express their thoughts and opinions," said Human Rights Watch senior Middle East researcher Christoph Wilcke.

"The state should be rolling back those laws, not extending them to online expression."


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippines, Japan coast guards hold anti-piracy drills
    Philippines, Japan coast guards hold anti-piracy drills

    Philippine and Japanese coast guard teams staged an anti-piracy drill on Wednesday, featuring the storming of a cargo vessel after a mock hijack, in a show of maritime cooperation between the two nations amid rising tension in Asian waters. Both nations face a challenge from China's growing assertiveness over territorial claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, where it uses coast guard and fishing vessels to press into disputed areas. Wednesday's drill was the first held by …

  • Philippines says notorious bomb-maker killed by rebels

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine military says a wanted Filipino bomb-maker and one of the top terror suspects has been killed by a rival factions of Muslim rebels. …

  • Fight fans sue Pacquiao over injury
    Fight fans sue Pacquiao over injury

    Two Nevada men filed a class-action lawsuit against Manny Pacquiao, seeking millions in damages because they say he fraudulently concealed a shoulder injury before his defeat to Floyd Mayweather. It is just the latest fallout from Mayweather's victory in Las Vegas on Saturday in a unanimous decision, with Pacquiao saying afterwards that the shoulder complaint hampered his performance in the welterweight world title showdown. The plaintiffs argue that by failing to go public with the injury …

  • Noy leaves for US
    Noy leaves for US

    President Aquino leaves today for the United States to begin his three-day North American trip that will culminate in a state visit to Canada. The President departs at 8 a.m. on a chartered Philippines Airlines flight to Chicago for a one-day working visit. From Chicago, the President will proceed to Canada where he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will witness the signing of bilateral agreements on labor cooperation, development assistance and infrastructure development. Canada is home to …

  • China accuses Phl of violating South China Sea Code
    China accuses Phl of violating South China Sea Code

    China has accused the Philippines of violating a 13-year-old informal code of conduct in the South China Sea with its building work on disputed islets, firing back again after repeated criticism of China’s own construction work. China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed an agreement in 2002 to refrain from occupying uninhabited reefs and shoals in the sea, and from building new structures that would complicate disputes. In a statement released just before …

  • Noul to bring stormy weather to central, northern Luzon
    Noul to bring stormy weather to central, northern Luzon

    Tropical storm  Noul  (international name) will bring stormy weather to the eastern section of Central and Northern Luzon this weekend, as it slightly gained strength and moved westward toward the Philippine area of responsibility yesterday. Rene Paciente, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) senior weather forecaster, said the eastern section of Central and Northern Luzon, including Aurora, Isabela and Cagayan, may experience rains with gusty …

  • House asked to allocate P500-M legal aid for OFWs
    House asked to allocate P500-M legal aid for OFWs

    The House of Representatives was asked yesterday to appropriate P500 million for legal assistance for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Reprieved death convict Mary Jane Veloso mirrors the tragedy of many OFWs in search of better job opportunities abroad “who become victims of human and drug trafficking and other forms of exploitation,” according to Bill 5704 that the seven-member Makabayan bloc of lawmakers had filed. The lawmakers said Veloso’s family claims that they were not …

  • World’s best place to be a mom: Norway is tops; Phl 105th
    World’s best place to be a mom: Norway is tops; Phl 105th

    Norway ranks as the world’s best place to be a mother, well ahead of the United States, which dropped to the 33rd spot in the annual scorecard released by Save the Children on Monday. Somalia is the worst place, just below the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The Philippines placed 105th out of 179 countries, but the Save the Children report, which profiled Metro Manila among other cities, said that the National Capital Region has done better than most megacities …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options