HRW accuses authorities of restricting civic space, criminalizing free speech

(Photo: Human Rights Watch Facebook)
AMMAN — Civic space in Jordan has shrunk over the past four years as authorities persecute and harass citizens organizing peacefully and engaging in political dissent, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Sunday.اضافة اعلان

In a lengthy report published on its website, HRW accused “the authorities” of using vague and abusive laws that criminalize free speech, association, and assembly. It said that authorities detain, interrogate, and harass journalists, political activists, and members of political parties and independent trade unions, and their family members, and restrict their access to basic rights, such as work and travel, to quash political dissent.

“There is an urgent need to address the downward spiral on rights we are seeing in Jordan today,” Lama Fakih, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying.

“‘Maintaining stability’ can never be a justification for abusing people’s rights and closing space that every society needs,” she added.

The report, titled “Jordan: The Government Crushes Civic Space”, said that in 2020, the number of cases related to these charges nearly doubled from the previous year, according to annual reports issued by the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), HRW said.

Despite numerous attempts by Jordan News to contact the NCHR’s president, they were unavailable for comment. However, NCHR Media and Communication Officer Ahmed Fahim told Jordan News that: “We reject the description of Jordan as an ‘oppressive state’, and (the notion) that torture is ‘systematic’, or that there are systematic campaigns to restrict freedoms.”

“But we acknowledge the existence of some violations,” Fahim said.

Fahim stated that the center has made various public statements against the implementation of the Crime Prevention Law, governors’ powers of administrative detention, and notes on the implementation of the Cybercrime Law.

The center, according to Fahim, has followed up on a large number of complaints, investigated many observations, and communicated with government agencies and concerned parties, and has “resolved many”.

Suspended NCHR Commissioner-General Ala’a Al-Armouti said that the general drift of the HRW statement is correct, as it showed that there is a tendency to restrict freedom of opinion, expression, association, and criticism of the government.

He told Jordan News that details mentioned in the report are consistent with what was issued before by the NCHR, and stressed that “if the security grip continues and the space for expression and freedoms decreases, this will deprive society of the right to free expression.”

Freedoms are part of human identity, he added.

Head of the Center for the Protection of Freedom of Journalists (CPFJ), Nidal Mansour, told Jordan News that he agrees with the things mentioned in the report.

“It is clear that the public space is getting restricted more and more while the government’s acceptance of freedom of expression is declining too, and therefore we have a real problem of censorship,” he said.

According to Mansour, there is legislation that can be used to undermine the right of free expression, but the most important challenge is that governments claim to hold the only right opinion.

“While the government claims that it is carrying out political reform programs, its practices do not support such reform,” he added.

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