Complaints about Jordan's cyber law

With the Jordanian parliament dissolved since last November, the cabinet is continuing to issue "provisional" laws – a practice that is allowed by Article 94 of the constitution so long as the laws relate to "necessary measures which admit of no delay".

One of these – though it is difficult to justify on the grounds of urgency – is the new Information Systems Cyber Crimes Law. TheCommittee to Protect Journalists and a group of Jordanian news websites are protesting about it.

The law seeks to deal with some familiar problems such as hacking but, as often happens with legislation in Arab countries, it is loosely drafted, giving rise to fears that it could restrict freedom of expression and the ability of journalists to do their work. The CPJ says:

In all, the law provides authorities with sweeping powers to restrict the flow of information and limit public debate.

Article 8 penalises "sending or posting data or information via the Internet or any information system that involves defamation or contempt or slander," without defining what constitutes those crimes. 

Article 12 penalises obtaining "data or information not available to the public, concerning national security or foreign relations of the kingdom, public safety or the national economy" from a website without a permit. 

Article 13 allows for law enforcement officers to search the offices of websites and access their computers without prior approval from public prosecutors.

Earlier this month, the authorities cracked down on internet use by government employees while at work. Access to almost 50 websites has been blocked, including the official news agency and other local news websites. The aim is allegedly to "boost the performance of public employees".

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 21 August 2010

UPDATE, 3 September, 2010: Reporters Without Borders said"some of the most repressive provisions" have now been withdrawn but the revised law "still grants the authorities arbitrary restrictive powers".