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Jordan: ‘Day of Mourning’ as Parliament Approves Internet Restrictions

Amendments to the press and publications law restricting online expression in Jordan were passed by parliament today [September 12, 2012]. Simultaneously a demonstration was held by activists and journalists in front of the parliament as a majority of MP's voted for the bill.

An improvised coffin plastered with the words “Freedom of the Internet” was carried by activists signalling the anticipated death of the Internet in Jordan. Participants wore black to the funeral-themed demonstration.

The approved law must still receive ratification from the upper house of parliament as well as approval by King Abdullah II, who retains supreme authority and whose signature is the seal of approval to all legislative matters. Member of Parliament, Jamil Nimri, who voted against the bill, in addition to the head of the journalists syndicate, attended the protest and claimed that such laws serve only to restrict freedoms and muffle the voices of the people.

The new law allows for more control and censorship over the Internet. It requires the owners of websites to register with the government and obtain a license, “just like any other publication.” Owners of websites will also be made responsible for the content of comments published by readers on their sites.

Outrage over the proposed law has been simmering for a while and netizens had already staged an online campaign to draw attention to the new law and its repercussions.

On Twitter, netizens expressed their dismay at such a bill.

The beginning of the Internet freedom funeral in front of the Jordanian Parliament

The beginning of the Internet freedom funeral in front of the Jordanian Parliament. Photograph shared by Mohamed Al Qaq on Twitter

Mohamed Al Qaq tweets [ar]:

بلشت جنازة حرية الانترنت #انترنت_بلا_قيود
@‬moalQaq: The funeral of the internet freedom has started‫

He shares this photograph, right, from the protest.

Nizar Samarri adds:

أقر مجلس النواب قبل قليل مشروع القانون المعدل لقانون المطبوعات و النشر.. اخص
@‬NizarSam: The house of representative have passed the amendments to the press and publications law just a while ago… what a shame

And @godotbasha asks:

@godotbasha: So if I draw parallels between Jordan and police states vis a vis ‪#censorship‬ law I can be subjected to persecution? ‪#freenetjo‬

Hisham Al Balawneh tweets:

مش مقتنع ابدا هدف قانون المطبوعات والنشر هو التنظيم بل هدفه تكميم الافواه وارجاع الاردن للخلف
@Jor2Day: I am not convinced at all that the goal behind the press and publications law is to organise, but is rather to shut the people up and move Jordan backwards

And Hanin Abu Shamat states:

@HaninSh: ‬What's with the #FreeNetJO drama? The Senate (Upper House) has to approve it first… I trust our Senators and not our useless MPs. :) #JO

Shahzeydo reflects:

@Shahzeydo: With one regressive law Jordanian bureaucracy puts a leash on Jordan's knowledge economy. ‘Brilliant’ Govt logic in a recession. #FreeNetJo”‬

And Majd Yousef continues:

الحرية في بلادنا قتلوها و اتهموها بشرفها عشان يطلعوا براءة من دمها
@Mayousef: They have killed freedom in our country and accused it of being dishonourable so that they would exonerate themselves

Fadi Zaghmout comments:

يوم أسود في تاريخ الأردن
@ArabObserver: A black day in Jordan's history

While Mohamad Shawash warns:

مش قادر اعبر اكتر عن امتعاضي – مجلس النواب الأردني انتو لعبتو بالنار

@Moeys: I cannot say more about my discontent – Jordanian parliament, you are playing with fire

Bashar Zeedan links the new attack on the freedom of the Internet to the Jordanian Spring. He says:

منذ بدء #الربيع_الاردني والحكومة تقمع وترفع وتحجب وتقمع.. فاهمين الموضوع غلط!
@BasharZeedan: The government has been suppressing, censoring, lifting and suppressing since the start of the #Jordanian_Spring… they've misunderstood the issue

And Omar Qudah adds:

مجنون من ظن أنه قادر على تسييج الفضاء كما يسيج دوار ومزرعة‏! ‏
@OmarQudah: He who thinks he can fence space like he fences a roundabout or a farm, is crazy!

Omar Kamel sees the Parliament's decision as a signal to boycott the elections:

مجلس “الأنياب” .. اشوف فيك يوم !! وهذا سبب الف بعد الالف لمقاطعة الانتخابات!
@BshMosawer: The parliament of ‘fangs'… I hope to see the day you suffer! This is the reason number 1000 following thousands of other reasons to boycott the elections!

Activists launched a petition on Avaaz.com under the title “Save the internet”, which called on King Abdullah II, the minister of information and members of parliament to repeal the amendments to the press and publications law.

Human Rights Watch also published a report on the latest bill passed by the parliament and the restrictions that are to be imposed on Jordanian websites, titled “Jordan: Moves to Censor Online Expression.”

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