Jordan’s Controversial Cybercrime Bill Threatens Media Freedom and Raises Censorship Concerns
Journalists and rights groups in Jordan have raised concerns about the Cybercrime Bill could limit partisan activity, curtail freedom of media and increase self-censorship. Rights activists say the law unfairly puts responsibility on users and not on platforms or internet service providers.
The Minister of Government Communication Faisal Al-Shboul said the law will introduce more stringent financial penalties. This has been strengthened in the amendments to curb rising criminal acts online. Al-Shboul said unauthorized access to information networks or systems with the intention of deletion, destruction, disclosure, alteration, or encryption will be deemed a criminal offense. T
The minister pointed out that such acts are considered a breach of security, foreign relations, public safety, and national economy. Creating and falsely attributing accounts or pages to others will also be considered unlawful. This bill will be presented to the Lower House ahead of the upcoming special parliamentary session.
Al-Shboul said the new amendments in the bill will swiftly tackle rising online crimes. But rights activists believe Jordan needs to make a clear distinction between its approach to universal and well-defined cybercrimes and social media regulations, such as hate speech, libel, harassment and online bullying. According to the Public Security Department, the number of cybercrime cases increased almost six-fold over the eight years between 2015 and 2022, an indication that many use social media platforms without knowing the difference between the freedom of expression and committing offenses, unintentionally, or not.
As such, the new amendments will enhance privacy of online users, curb misinformation and disinformation pertaining to national security, and economy. In regards to freedom of the media, the minister highlighted that the kingdom’s journalists are protected by press and publication law and other laws. He said hate speech, under the cybercrimes law, is defined as every writing and every speech or action intended to provoke sectarian or racial sedition, advocate violence or foster conflict between followers of different religions, and various components of the nation.