AMMAN – The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has released a
statement warning of the implications of the newly adopted Cybercrime Law in Jordan on freedom of expression. It pointed to the recent sentencing of
satirical journalist Ahmed Hassan Al-Zoubi, which has triggered debate
surrounding the new cybercrime law. This development has prompted concerns
among activists and human rights advocates who are apprehensive about potential
curbs on online freedoms and freedom of expression.
According to the OHCHR, Zoubi’s case exemplifies the serious
implications that many foresee with the upcoming cybercrime law. Critics argue
that the law’s broad reach could significantly limit online activities and
hinder open discourse.
Without sufficient judicial oversight and sanctions
The law has drawn criticism for provisions that could lead
to penalties for content deemed offensive to public officials. Critics express
concern that this could stifle dissent and erode public accountability.
Moreover, the law grants authorities the power to remove or block online
content without sufficient judicial oversight and sanctions the circumvention
of IP addresses, according to the statement.
The legislation outlines a series of vaguely defined cyber
offenses, including actions like “promoting immorality,”
“character assassination,” “inciting sedition,” and
“contempt for religions.” Critics argue that these terms lack
precision and could be subject to wide interpretation, potentially failing to
meet international human rights law standards for justifying restrictions on freedom of expression, according to the statement.
Cybercrime Law of 2015 arrests over numerous human rights
Referring to the previous Cybercrime Law of 2015, the OHCHR
stated that it has been employed to arrest numerous human rights activists and
journalists under charges of defamation.
The OHCHR has called on Jordan to not only reconsider the
legislation but also to draw upon expertise from IT specialists, legal experts,
civil society organizations, and the OHCHR itself. This approach aims to
develop legislation that effectively addresses cyber threats while
simultaneously upholding fundamental human rights.
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