AMMAN — The National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) on Tuesday said the government’s application of the 2023 Cybercrime Law will be subject to thorough monitoring and evaluation.
The announcement came during a one-day consultation meeting between NCHR officials, government officials, journalists and civil society organisation representatives at the NCHR headquarters in Amman.
During the meeting titled “Examining the legislative impact of the Cybercrime Law”, the NCHR announced that there will be a special hotline (079-1114641) designated for receiving comments related to the application of the law, per the centre’s mandate to review its legislative impact.
“Our main concern is to receive comments from people regarding the application of the law while ensuring that the digital space is regulated and clarifying the fact that the law will not prevent citizens from exercising their right to freedom of expression,” the NCHR’s board of trustees, Samar Haj Hassan, told the gathering.
Hajj Hassan stated that the centre will produce a specialised report that will reflect the impact of the new law.
“We will also continue to hold meetings with the civil society, the media and relevant government entities to discuss the application of the law and its impact on the status of human rights in Jordan,” Hajj Hassan added.
Based on the NCHR’s duty to spread awareness of human rights, the centre will hold activities for youth to clarify the Cybercrime Law and the need to organise cyberspace, while protecting their right to self-expression and active political participation, according to Hajj Hassan.
During a meeting with the president and members of the board of trustees of the NCHR and the Jordan Press Association (JPA) president at Al Husseiniya Palace in mid-August, His Majesty King Abdullah reaffirmed Jordan’s commitment to political and media pluralism.
The King stressed during the meeting that “the Kingdom was never an oppressive country, and will never be one, and its history is a testament to that”.
King Abdullah said combating cybercrime should not be at the expense of Jordanians’ right to express their opinion and criticise public policies.
The King said all are in agreement that countering offences on social media platforms that violate laws and morals is a necessity.
His Majesty said implementation of the Cybercrime Law will be the decisive factor in its evaluation and revising some of its provisions, as is the case with other legislation.
The King also noted that the NCHR is a pivotal national institution with an important role in promoting human rights, calling for maintaining efforts in this direction.
NCHR’s Protection Commissioner Nahla Momani said the centre will work on different levels in relation to the Cybercrime Law.
“The NCHR will receive complaints, follow up on detention cases, visit the detainees, establish a database study, monitor the relevant court verdicts and the manner in which the law will be applied against journalists,” Momani said.
Also speaking during the session was lawyer and NCHR board of trustee member Saed Karajeh who stressed the importance of spreading the principle of the rule of law and active citizenship, preserving people’s rights and “controlling behaviours to preserve public life within the laws governing law”.
“Our main concern is to eliminate any fear among the public and the self-censorship that could be practised by the journalists because of this new law regarding this law,” Karajeh added.
That is why, Karajeh maintained, “we urge the public to contact us for any comments or concerns regarding this law so that our specialised team can offer the necessary explanation that would eliminate any ambiguities”.
Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh, who attended the Lower House session in early August when the draft bill was still being discussed under the Dome, told the MPs that the government “does not consider the cybercrime bill a detractor from essential freedoms, and subsequently does not consider the bill unconstitutional”.
The government is “completely open to any criticism”, the prime minister said.
Khasawneh also stated that “the new law regulates and defines penalties in cyberspace,” noting that “the government has not offered anything contradictory to the Constitution”.
The prime minister spoke on three “pivotal issues”, the first of which is linked to the freedoms outlined in the Constitution. The government does not believe this bill affects or detracts from these rights at all, Khasawneh said.
The second is related to the constitutional notion that all Jordanians are equally entitled to the rights and freedoms outlined in the Constitution, and the third involves the protection of said rights and freedoms.
The government has not produced any legislation that may be deemed unconstitutional, the prime minister affirmed, stating that the Jordanian Constitution “is clear, balanced and we are always proud of it”.
“When the percentage of cybercrime complaints becomes six times higher in a single year, reconsideration is a must,” he added.
According to figures related to cybercrimes from the Judicial Council, 22,759 cybercrimes were recorded between 2019 and 2023.
The Cybercrime Unit at the Public Security Directorate stated that the number of cybercrime cases increased almost six-fold over the eight years between 2015 and 2022. This is an indication that many use social media platforms without knowing the difference between the freedom of expression and committing offences, unintentionally or not.
The unit said it handled 2,305 cases in 2015, which grew to 16,027 in 2022.
Jordanian courts have received complaints of e-crimes including violations of the privacy of women, children and youth, which often involve unauthorised filming, extortion or online harassment.
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