Possible amendments to Cybercrime Law raise skepticism

Faisal Shboul
Minister of State for Media Affairs Faisal Shboul. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Minister of State for Media Affairs Faisal Shboul told a parliamentary committee on Sunday that the government is committed to amending the Cybercrime Law as part of the endeavors of the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System, according to Jo24, but experts in the field are skeptical about seeing any positive amendments coming out soon. اضافة اعلان

They agreed on the pressing need to change the current law; its Article 11 to be more specific, claiming that it is a tool that represses freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Founder of the Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists, Nidal Mansour, told Jordan News that the law is used to repress journalists. He added that since Omar Al-Razaz was prime minister (2018-2020), there was no initiative to change the Cybercrime Law.

“Al-Razaz’s government submitted amendments to the Cybercrime Law; they were met with mixed reactions,” Mansour said.

The previous government wanted to abolish Article 11, but only moved the penalty for hate speech — imprisonment or arrest — to Article 10.

Article 11 of the law states that anyone who intentionally sends, resends, or publishes data or information through any information system or websites in a way that defames, slanders, or degrades any person shall be imprisoned for at least three months and fined no less than JD100 and no more than JD2,000.

According to Mansour, this law instated terror, and increased self-censorship and censorship. He expressed hope that the government would revise the legal mechanism of dealing with freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and adheres to the international treaties the country signed and is committed to.

“Since 1989, different governments have used various legislations to limit freedom of expression and media; legislations were used not to regulate, but to oppress, and we have been saying this for years. Human rights and spaces for freedom of expression are suffering major setbacks, as we saw with the arrests of protesters in recent weeks,” Mansour said.

The perception that this law is oppressive and significantly impacts freedom of speech and freedom of the press is shared by Basil Okoor, publisher and editor-in-chief of Jo24, and commissioner-general of the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), Alaa Armouti.

“There is no media outlet or a regular person who was not affected by this law. Because it includes imprisonment and arrests, it acts as a restrictive factor on individuals and press institutions. The fear of imprisonment or fines keeps people in constant fear and stress when they express themselves or write articles,” Okoor said.

Armouti said that NCHR is against exaggerated penalties and urged the government to stick to the criminal law that punishes slander and liability, without meting out the same punishment through the Cybercrime Law.

“It (the law) narrows freedoms of expression and intimidates the press, limiting criticism. There is fear among journalists, the self-censorship is exaggerated,” Armouti added.

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