Reporters Without Borders hails the withdrawal of some of the most repressive provisions in the temporary law on cyber crimes in an amendment approved by the government on 29 August but continues to call for its repeal as it still grants the authorities arbitrary restrictive powers, above all because of its vague wording.
The most welcome changes were to provisions concerning defamation and to provisions granting too much discretionary power to the attorney-general’s office.
Adopted on 3 August, the so-called Information Systems Crimes Law imposed a legal framework on news and information websites but the penalties for violations, ranging from fines to forced labour, continue to be disproportionate (articles 8, 10 and 11).
Freedom of information continues to be limited by article 12’s ban on posting information previously unavailable to the public that concerns Jordan’s national security, foreign relations, public order or the economy. This provision is liable to restrict investigative journalism and encourage self-censorship.
Article 9 prohibiting immoral content – an extremely vague concept that is not defined – also remains unchanged. It is likely to threaten freedom of expression by being applied to innocuous content.
Article 8 on the posting of any defamatory or insulting comment has been withdrawn. It had been widely criticised by journalists, who had feared it would lead to more defamation prosecutions. There was also a great deal of criticism of article 13, which has been amended.
In its original form, article 13 gave the attorney-general unlimited power to issue the police with a warrant to search the office or home of anyone suspected of violating this law. Now the authorities will have to request a court’s permission and will have to produce some evidence that a crime is being committed.