Websites and the Publication Law المواقع الالكترونية وقانون المطبوعات والنشر

السبت 16 كانون الثاني 2010

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بقلم إياس شرايحة

قد يعد قرار محكمة التمييز بتصنيف المواقع الإلكترونية كـ”منشورات” وإخضاعها لقانون المطبوعات والنشر أسخن المواضيع المتداولة في المدونات الأردنية. ويواجه قرار محكمة التمييز استنكار حاد وُجّه من قبل أصحاب عدد من المواقع الأردنية، التي تعد أساساً لما يسميه البعض بـ”الاعلام الأردني البديل” ، الذي نشأ كرد فعل تجاه “خمول” الإعلام التقليدي. وينسب العديد تراجع جودة هذا الإعلام التقليدي لطبيعة قانون المطبوعات والنشر المثير للجدل، حيث يرى البعض أن نظام الرقابة والعقوبات النابع من القانون عامل رئيس في “إسكات” و”إخماد” الفكر الصحفي الحر، وعرض وجهات النظر المتضادة، ونقل روايات غير الرواية الرسمية لبعض الأحداث.

إلا أن قرار المحكمة صدر تحت أضواء مختلفة؛ خلفية القرار تعود إلى الصحافي أحد سلامة، الذي يعمل الآن كمستشار لولي عهد مملكة البحرين، حيث اشتكى سلامة على سمير الحياري وشاكر أبو عنترة، مالكَيْ موقعين إلكترونيين، على أساس نشر مقالات يزعم أنها تحتوي على “هجمات شخصية” بحقه.

(مقالة “عمون” على قضية سلامة وعمر الكلّاب، والتي تتضمن اتهامات سلامة ضد الكلاب وعمون أيضا)

يحظر قانون المطبوعات والنشر التشهير و”اغتيال الشخيصة” بناءً على مزاعم خاطئة، وكان ذلك أساس الادعاء. في هذه الحالة، يتحمل الكاتب ورئيس تحرير المنشورة مسؤولية أي افتراء أو تشهير بحق شخص آخر. حكمت المحكمة لصالح المدعي، وقام المدعى عليهم بالطعن بالقرار وصولاً إلى محكمة التمييز، والتي واجبها البحث فيما  إذا كانت أسس القضية قانونية أصلاً، أي أن تقرر قانونية شمول قانون المطبوعات والنشر للمواقع الالكترونية.

مؤيدو القرار ينظرون إليه من المنظار ذاته: تطبيق القرار على المواقع الالكترونية يشجع مسائلة مالك الموقع تجاه صحة مزاعمه وادعائاته، مؤدياً إلى ارتقاء نزاهة وأمانة المعلومات ومنع الافتراء و”اغتيال الشخصية”.

إلا أن المشكلة في حقيقة الأمر تكمن في باقي تداعيات تطبيق القانون (في صورته الحالية)، فيحظر القانون مثلاً عرض أي شيء قد يشكل إهانة للدين، الرُسل والأنبياء، والآخرين، الأمر الذي قد يشكل عائق في وجه استمرار بعض المناقشات والمناظرات في المواضيع الحساسة.
(قانون المطبوعات والنشر)

توجد أيضا نقاط ساخنة من حيث التطبيق لم يُجَب عن الأسئلة المتعلقة بها بعد. فمثلاً: ماذا يحدث في حال خرق أحد المواقع نص من نصوص قانون المطبوعات والنشر؟ هل يكون للمتضرر الحق بمحاسبة الكاتب فحسب؟ أم أن الحكومة ستمنع الدخول إلى الموقع أو تصفحة؟

وجود قوانين تحمي كرامة المواطن وسمعته من الافتراء والتشهير أمر طبيعي لا يقتصر على الأردن فحسب. القوانين المناهضة للتشهير جزء محوري من تشريعات حقوق الإنسان عالميا، فينص العهد الدولي الخاص بالحقوق المدنية والسياسية في المادة 17 على أنه يمنع تعرض أي شخص إلى هجمات غير شرعية على كرامته وسمعته، وبأن الحماية من هجمات مماثلة حق للجميع.

إلا أن المشكلة في الأردن هي أن التشهير محظور بشدة فقط في إطار الإعلام، حيث أن قانون المطبوعات والنشر هو المصدر التشريعي الرئيس في حظر التشهير. لذا، تضطر أي شخصية تزعم الدفاع عن نفسها من التشهير أن تربط مزاعم المدعى عليه بالمنشورات وقانون المطبوعات والنشر.

عند رؤية القرار من منظور “حظر التشهير”، يبدو الحكم كأنه خطوة حسنة النية لإدخال “الاستقامة في الاعلام” إلى عالم الإنترنت، فضلاً عن توسيع حقوق المواطنين بما يتعلق بالحماية من “اغتيال الشخيصة” لتشمل الاعتدائات الواقعة على شبكة الانترنت. إلا أن المشكلة، كما ذكر سابقاً، تنبع عن تطبيق باقي أجزاء القانون.

شخصياً، أرى أن البديل الأمثل كان التأكيد على تجريم التشهير بغض النظر عن طريقة ممارسته سواء في الصحافة أو الاعلام، وأن حماية السمعة والصورة للشخصية حق مصون بغض النظر عن الوسط الذي تم عن طريقه التشهير، وهذا ما نراه في عدد كبير من دول العالم: في حال وجود افتراء يسيء إلى سمعة شخص معيّن، يحق للمفترى عليه بالمطالبة بالتراجع عن الأقوال و/أو التعويض.

سبب دعمي لتغيير مماثل في القانون هو أن النظام البديل يضمن حق حماية السمعة الشخصية على نطاق أوسع دون خلق تداعيات سلبية للأمر. وتوسيع نطاق القوانين المتعلقة بالتشهير لتتضمن عالم الإنترنت أمر طبيعي، وتم حدوثة في دول أوروبية والولايات المتحدة.

صَون حق المواطنين بالحماية من الافتراء واغتيال الشخيصة والتشهير، ولو في عالم الانترنت لأمر بغاية الأهمية، إلا أن صون هذه الحقوق لا يجب أن يحدث في إطار الإعلام والصحافة والمنشورات والقوانين المتعلقة بها، بل بإطار قانون العقوبات بشكل عام، فإذا اقتصرت الحماية من التشهير على قانون المطبوعات والنشر، قد يبدأ عصر من الرقابة الالكترونية، معرقلاً انفتاح وحرية عالم الانترت اليوم.

hajjaj censorship


By
Eyas Sharaiha

Perhaps the talk of the moment in the Jordanian blogosphere is the decision of the Court of Cassation of Jordan (also known as the Supreme Court) to categorize Internet websites as a type of “publication” thus extending the controversial Press and Publication Law to govern websites as well. The decision was met with fierce opposition in the Jordanian Blogosphere; the Jordanian free and alternative media was now to be under the same governing legislation that many believe brought Jordan’s traditional media to its supposed demise. Indeed, it is a common view that the Press and Publication Law restricts journalists in exploring alternative news sources, as well as voicing their opinions freely in editorials.

The Court’s ruling, however, occurred in a different light. The ruling was a result of a court case by journalist Ahmad Salameh, currently an advisor for the crown prince of Bahrain, against Samir al-Hiari and Sakher Abu `Antara, who operate Internet news websites, over a case of public defamation.

(See Ammon’s article on Salameh’s case against Omar Kallab, listing Salameh’s accusations against Mr. Kallab as well as the Ammon website)

The ‘Press and Publication Law’ provides clear anti-defamation codes for journalists, and thus was used by Salameh to argue for his case. In that case, the writers as well as the editor-in-chief of the publication are accountable; and false information or personal attacks on individuals are prohibited. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and the verdict was appealed until reaching the Court of Cassation, which had to establish whether the basis of the case was lawful to begin with, and thus, establish whether the Press and Publication Law can be a governing document for articles on the internet.

Supporters of the ruling also view ramifications in the same light: writers on the internet are accountable to what they say, baseless attacks are prohibited, and information integrity is promoted.

While such view is well-founded, supporters are perhaps oblivious to the other ramifications of using the law as it stands to websites. For instance, the law prohibits writings offensive to religion, prophets, or other people, which might prove to hinder some of the healthy debate going on.

(View the Entire text of the Press and Publication Law in Arabic in its current form here (Law initially passed in 1998, with major amendments in 2007))

Additionally, concerning questions come to mind; if a website is found to contain writings or expressions that are contrary to the Press and Publications Law, what happens? Are the writers held accountable? Or will the internet-equivalent of forcing a periodical to cease publication – website blocking – be implemented (which would be horrible, to say the least)?

Laws that limit personal attacks as well as offensive statements are not exclusive to Jordan, however. Anti-defamation jurisdictions are actually internationally accepted; Article 17 in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, for instance, explicitly refers to defamation:

1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

The problem in Jordan, however, is that defamation law is closely tied to the press, media, and publications, and the prohibition of defamation occurs primarily in the Press and Publication Law. Thus, when people like Ahmad Salameh took a defamation case to court, the case’s success was contingent on the characterization of internet websites as “publications” and recognizing them as falling under the controversial Press and Publication Law.
When viewed in that light, the ruling seems like a well-intentioned move to allow integrity to extend to the Internet, as well as the extending rights of citizens for protection from attacks on their image to apply on the Internet. The problem is, as mentioned before, other stipulations arise due to remaining portions of the law.

Personally, what I think would have been a better alternative, was to emphasize that defamation is a crime independently, irrelevant to the realm of media, the press, or publications. This is actually what most countries have in place; laws stress that if false claims producing a negative image are communicated to any person other than the defamed himself, the defamed has the right to seek retraction and/or compensation.

The reason I think a better alternative is to stress only on anti-defamation laws is because: their negative implications are narrower, yet they guarantee the personal right of protection against defamation on a broader scale. For instance, if one is to send several letters to CEOs claiming that individual XYZ is fraudulent, then it should be the right of individual XYZ to seek retraction and compensation, despite the fact that such defamation occurred in communications that are not categorized as “publications”. Similarly, a person’s own writings on the internet form a natural extension of his own communicated claims, and thus in the event of the defamation, a person can seek retraction naturally.

Extending anti-defamation laws to the internet is natural, and does happen in European countries and the United States (albeit with minor stipulations). It is based on the simple expectation that what you do in the “cyber world” is entailed by what you do in the “real world”.

Reserving individuals’ rights for protection against false claims and attacks on reputation in the internet is highly important. However, such protection of rights should not be done in the frame of media, press, and publication legislation, as that would hinder the openness of the web as we know it.

  • Some friends on twitter are starting to label this issue as 'Censorship'. Let's use accurate language. What is being discussed is the effect of a legal ruling on the legal status of electronic publishing. Let's not frame this under the word 'censorship' just yet.

    Stressing anti defamation in the article above is the right way to go.

  • Well argued, however, there is the problem of stretching the concept of anti-defamation too far in Jordan, so that it starts to apply when one is critical of public figures even when such scrutiny is in its place. Therefore, extending anti-defamation laws to internet websites, which is, as you argue, the better alternative, has to also coincide with a process of defining anti-defamation very precisely. This definition should build on the UN covenant bands you outlined (privacy, family, etc) but without including clauses about 'ruining the country's reputation' and 'affecting political ties' etc. Otherwise, if the definition if anti-defamation in its current version is to be applied, the alternative capacity of online websites, and the ability of Jordanians to express themselves more freely on the net, will be infringed.

    Question: one thing I don't get yet, if online sites are now considered publications, does that mean they need to be registered and licensed?

  • Agreed. Any such laws need to be clear about what is (acceptable) 'criticism', and what is offensive/a personal attack/etc.

    As for your question, my interpretation of the law's text is that it distinguishes between “publications in general” and “press”. Many of the limitations, i.e. registering in the union, having a CEO, no anonymous articles, actually refer to “al-ma6boo3a” — the printed press. According to my information, also, the categorization of websites occurred under “publications in general” as they say, so I am assuming most printed press-specific restrictions do not apply.

    Of course, not even the government knows for sure about what's going on, and a mechanism of executing the ruling is still being studied.

  • Well written piece Eyas.

    You are right to emphasize anti-defamation here as it is the whole ball game. This decision did not come out of the blue after all these years of openness to try and randomly ban youtube, facebook and twitter…especially when we consider that the Queen also uses these technologies quite openly. In other words, their intention seems to be regarding defamation and slander uses, which is normal as you pointed out in all societies.

    So censorship is not the right word, however it is an inevitable by-product, especially if we don't know what defamation entails.

    Laws should not be ambiguous.

    I would even “accept” so-called “red lines” if I was only told what they were. Let us know what it is exactly that we are not allowed to say/do once and for all – if this is the best deal we can get.

    In the meantime we get stuck with charges like “harming national unity” and other ambiguous (and rather ludicrous charges) that can be applied to just about anything. This induces fear, which induces self-censorship, which hurts the online world.

    If they want to go after slander, then establish inclusive anti-defamation laws – don't paint everyone the same color.

    Jordan is a country in the region that is on the cusp of internet development and entrepreneurship, and this decision may be one of the most regrettable policies ever to emerge.

  • Mohanned

    I can't see how censorship is not the right word? If the wording of the “law” is intentionally ambiguous so as that anything,anytime and anywhere can be “defaming” or “harmful”. Plus, what “red lines”? There should be no red lines! There is something functionally wrong when some are not accountable..it doesn't make any sense..if you don't want to be accountable get out of the way and let us make our own decisions.

    Point should be: Internet is like your mind,you should be free to think the same way you should be free to surf the web and express your thoughts.maybe next step will be installing some sort of a chip in everyones' head so that our thoughts can be controlled.

    Plus, the public will eventually know which publications are just tabloid and which are true news websites. The fact that jordanians no longer watch the brain eating disease called JTV is a proof that we can tell what is bull and what is not. The fact that jordanian buy alrai to look at the “waffeyyat” page is another proof..So yeah,the net should be completely free,no strings attached..and if anyone is in public office the he/she must understand that it is a whole package and he/she must be able to accept any sort of criticism thrown at him/her.

  • Mohanned

    The right way for who? If you mean the government, then yeah maybe you are right. The “just yet” has been well documented in Jordan…The worst case scenario is the most probable scenario. Even if the law and its provisions aren't enforced, the damage has already been done; the ambiguity of the such laws are designed to increase the risks associated with free speech, thus resulting censorship to avoid “legal” issues..The formula is simple: increase the risks and make the behavior less appealling because of the costs that might be associated with it..

  • mommabean

    I saw the post at Nas and came over to comment, as requested. I think that this article is well-written. Let me be frank. I am not a journalist (as pretty much anyone who has read my blog knows). I am not a member of the press, either on-line or IRL. But, I am a blogger. My concerns over this law are that the ambiguous nature of them will lead to persecution of bloggers who say something that “offends” anyone who has enough wasta to give them trouble.

    I post about poor service, upon occasion. Does that mean that the service provider should be able to haul me into court for “offending” them? Having and focusing on adequate anti-defamation laws is fine, but clarity must be gained. Without that clarity, such application of the Press and Publication laws will absolutely lead to censorship, self and otherwise. It is natural in a region where who you know is often more important than whether you are right…

    And, appying such laws to bloggers boggles the imagination. We aren't reporting the news. We're carrying on a conversation, sometimes with our readers, sometimes with ourselves. Even Black Iris, which covers news-worthy topics doesn't purport to be reporting the news. It is what it is, a conversation that Nas carries about what he sees in Jordan.

    This is what troubles me, the gray areas, shoot the gray entirety…

  • Agreed completely; I do think that censorship will most probably be an inevitable by-product; even if real censorship never occurs, self-censorship certainly will, and that might actually be more serious, since it hinders the intellectual development of thought in a very important medium.

    As I saw you re-tweeting however, there is one thing that definitely remains clear: 'hope' is not at all lost, and agreement on the inner workings of executing the ruling are nowhere near decided. That's where cyber-lobbying, I think, can play a powerful role, especially given the growing number of influential politicians embracing the web.

    The court of cassation is the highest form of authority in the judicial branch. We cannot appeal to the executive branch (government) to challenge the court's decision; we can, however, (especially given the opportunity of having no parliament), directly appeal to the government to either modify the laws themselves, or simply publish literature that would standardize and clarify the whole mess (at least).

  • Regarding anonymous blogging part the law clearly states that about the “ma6boo3a” in its general form hence making it apply to websites since they were considered a “ma6boo3a” in the reports

  • When it comes to defamation law there is always a battle between it and free speech, and usually(should from a free speech pov) the right to free speech wins in most instances.
    That aside one of the law did not remove most of the limitation it just redistributed it amongst the law that defamation, anti religious sentiments, public security, and reporting on cases and the government has been sprinkled through out the law or added to other laws.
    so the situation doesn't just concern defamation, and if it did that alone is enough to cripple many conversations.

  • Mohanned

    Here is what I think: Freedom of speech,especially on the web,has no colored areas,no black or white or gray. It is the web, it is everything and anything, it is our imagination. it is the good and the bad. You can't regulate my imagination just like you can't regulate the way I think,period.

  • I think that it all depends on whatever you write- if you write it as a matter of opinion or as a matter of fact.If you write it as a matter of opinion no one will ever accuse you of defamation or any other legal term of your choice. However, if you write is as a matter of fact then you are expected to defend it in case someone objectecs to it. You need to be able to verify your facts, identify the basis with which you based your claim on it. You need to bring expert witnesses, furnish statistics, cite data or research findings, and so on and so forth. So for now I wouldn't worry too much about this ruling provided that you don't refer to your writing as “FACTS”.

  • The jist I'm getting from reading articles on alghad in Arabic is that websites are considered part of “sa7afa” as opposed to printed press; I could, of course, be wrong.

    Either way, it will be up to the committee currently in place to discuss what websites should be considered, so whatever we hear now in the news might not be worth much. My expectation, however, is that common sense would prevail amongst those in the committee.

    My hope (and preliminary assumption) is that they are well intentioned, and if that's the case, our concerns should be minimized.

  • On the defamation thing:
    I think you're taking an extreme meaning of defamation. From what I've read in sources such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, defamation is only defined to include (a) intentional, (b) systematic, (c) baseless, (d) attacks on an individual or his reputation. I do not think saying “X isn't doing his job right” would be ranked under defamation. However, saying someone is responsible for theft when he isn't… you shouldn't go to jail for saying that… but if whoever is the defamed seeks the court, he should have the right to let you retract the statement. I don't see that this goes against free speech in any way.

  • Exactly; which is why I'm very much against “regulating” the internet. My suggestion in the post about splitting “attacks on character” into a separate right (as done in other countries) is not in an attempt to regulate the web — instead, the web becomes what it is right now, but those affected by other people's speech (be it a letter, a televised speech, or something written on the web) have the right to follow up on that and seek retraction/compensation.

  • Censorship is not the right word at the moment because we don't know how the government will go about implementing the ruling. One possibility out of the many is that internet censorship will occur. The possibility I hope for is that the internet / blogosphere continues as is, but for whoever is damaged (and REALLY damaged) by baseless claims.. well, they now have a basis for pursuing a case in the judicial system.

    Also note that giving people the right to seek the judicial system when they think their rights are trespassed is not a limitation of the internet; just like how in the real world anyone can sue anyone over anything, but the judicial system acts as a filter that only allows real damaged people to get their rights, that should be possible over the internet. And it is, in most places of the world.

    I agree completely that with the current phrasing of the law, as well as the fact that all anti-defamation clauses and other limitations are integrated into the law, it means that not only should websites be treated as normal speech where the writer is held accountable (which is fine by me), they are now treated as media and press (sa7afa), which is NOT the way to go in any standard. So its bad — no question, its just not censorship in my opinion… not necessarily, at least.

  • Great piece Eyas.

    They are going to send us back to the dark ages. One step forward three hundred steps back. This is a coup de grace to Jordanian blogging and bloggers and the court case they used to issue such a law is but an excuse to smother serious bloggers, who strive to spread knowledge and help reform the country.

    They finally found a loophole to wash out our voices from the background.

    So sad because such a decision alone makes me want to apply for a visa to any foreign country and leave my beloved Jordan.

    How will this new law affect us all as reformists, writers, online journalists, thinkers, artists, comic artists and creative individuals?

    Does this mean that every time I write an allegory on my blog or draw a comic about a sensitive issue that might strike a chord with someone I am going to end up looking behind my shoulders? I won't stand down as a writer and a comic artist with a message and so should others do the same.

    Why should we return to living under the mercy of traditional and old fashioned newspapers to get published? Who will determine giving licenses for websites and blogs? Someone who probably knows squat about creativity and the power of the word.

    This is tragic…we should do something on the ground as online petitions won't echo with our officials.

    By the way your point about slander is true. The government and our esteemed MPs should create a new law governing attacks on individuals and settling personal scores under the cover of free online journalism, which happened to me twice. Here is the link to a very recent attack on my person. This is the second time it happened.

    http://www.rumonline.net/viewPost.php?id=32098

    Even though this new law will allow me to sue this website I am 100 percent against it as it will sadly throw us all in the abyss of ignorance.

    One step forward and three hundred steps backwards.

    By the way I am creating a video report for http://www.ikbis.com so anyone interested in being featured in it to talk about this can e-mail me at: [email protected]

    Let us all stir the boat … if we fall in the sea we can always try to swim back to shore instead of being carried away against our wills to a desolate island.

    Mike V. Derderian,
    A Homo sapien trying to get a hold of a banana in a world governed by apes…

  • You do make excellent points.

    The only thing that I think should be noted by people is that we are refering to the decision makers as “them”, and unintentionally associating “them” with the government, when in fact, they are separate bodies (and our legislation requires ABSOLUTE separation between the legislative/executive branches and the judicial branch). While doing some unconstitutional stuff to serve an agenda can happen sometimes, interfering with the judicial branch is an absolute red line that I don't think that could happen.

    So when saying “They finally found a loophole to wash out our voices from the background.” — that may be true, if the judicial branch had political motivations, but even then, I just want to clarify that I don't think that this particular move has anything to do with the government or an agenda. (the gov. might've liked what happened, I can't argue either way; I'm just saying, they're not the reason for this particular thing)

  • Ahmad Al-Sholi

    So, when you say that minister X didn't do his job well, and he is responsible for 1, 2, and 3. Is that defamation?
    In countries of such practices, information is available to everyone to make rational judgements which will decrease speculations or tabloids rationally. In countries like ours where information is at best hard to get, and where pillars and institutions of democracy lack, where individuals can't enjoy buffer and support of reasonable institutionalism practicing accountability over executives, it will remain just another tool of control.

    We have all the christmas decorations for a party in july.

  • I quickly skimmed through the comments, but one thing i want to comment on, is this conversation about is this court decision alongside censorship or not.

    My simple answer is YES.

    Wikipedia states “Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor.”

    Its true that the courts decision came out from an anti defamation case, yet the decision it self was to include websites under the Print & Publishing Law. It didn't say that they will consider websites as a medium similar to print material when arguing an anti defamation case. They specifically chose that law which covers a lot of red lines the internet was free from including freedom to talk about religion and other stuff I really am in no position to list here as I really don't know.

    What I know is that law censors free speech and written word. And the internet is all about free speech. This might not be the case of China or Saudi Arabia of blocking website. But I have no idea why we are shying away from saying that some people at our government are planning to censor our online activity not in access but in our freedom to write whatever we feel like writing about.

    Anti defamation can have its own separate law, so yes, we need to worry and worry big time and voice this worry out loud.

  • Point taken Eyas.

    I should have alluded to that fact.

    The judicial branch is indeed encircled by a red line. What saddens me most is that a reform and legislative movement to correct what is going to happen to the blogging movement as a result of this law would be impossible to launch any time soon.

    It will take time for the buzz to abate but hopefully by then a new law would be passed so as to just filter out online transgressions on individuals instead of “license” blogs and websites.

    This might not be a direct way to create a cyber censorship as Ahmad Humeid said in his comment but it is most definitely a prelude, whether it was intentional or by coincidence.

    And yes it probably did make the government very happy 😉

  • Well said mama! would love to hear and answer to this specifically.

  • olakhalidi

    Its pure censorship in all forms and shapes. lets not get go into denial mode. please i beg you.

  • olakhalidi

    Its pure censorship in all forms and shapes. lets not get go into denial mode. please i beg you.

  • Mohanned

    Theoretically the branches must be separate, but facts on the ground say they are not: No legislative branch exists except for the APPOINTED senate..Even the representatives who reach the Parliament get there based on an election law that is intentionally designed to minimize opposition and limit the participation of Jordanians from Palestinian origin, thus the “authenticity” of anything that comes out of it is questionable at best.

    The governments are appointed, with a new PM every couple of years with no accountability whatsoever. The judicial branch gets the laws of the land from the two aforementioned branches and the ABSOLUTE NON ACCOUNATBLE power lies with the king. So yeah while it might look like the gov has nothing to do with the ruling, they are the ones that advance and approve such laws. The laws of the land are the product of the whole system, not one part of it.
    If there is something foundationally wrong then we should be able to point fingers and say that it is wrong, even if it is a “red line”, especially when the red lines collide;that is when a red line for the regime collides with a red line for the country as a whole, and so on and so forth..

    Plus the proven record for governments in Jordan is that you should expect the worst. Good will doesn't exist especially when it comes to issues that might “harm” the “nation” and its “red lines”. As for image, one can safely say that ,locally, what is left of that image is now being completely destroyed, and if the powers that be think they will not be held responsible-at least ethically- by the people then they are wrong.

  • Well it's as clear as the sun -in a sunny day!-
    – Why was the law passed now? shouldn't there be a Parliament first!? (and I right now am wondering if asking this question is considered “harmful”?)

  • I think that freedom of speech cannot be obtained in “real life” so the internet could be the only escape…

  • The law was passed in 1998. The ammendment was passed in 2007. No law was passed now, the court of cassation – part of the judicial branch, which has nothing to do with the parliament ,is the authority that basically is responsible for “interpreting” laws when disagreements occur. This is the ruling that is creating the whole mess.

  • Ahmad,
    I'm not a lawyer but I don't think that the example that you put forth about the minister qualifies for defmation, however, if you for example accuse that same minister with having sex with one of his interns that would qualify for slander(verbally) & defmation(if you put it in writing). By the way what did you mean by having Xmas decorations for a party in July?!

  • Thanks for correcting

  • I cannot dispute that a relationship exists between the executive and legislative branch. I would still argue however that the judicial branch is independent and separate.

    It is normal in all countries for the judicial branch to draw upon the laws set by the other branch(es). I did not argue that the law is good and dandy, but rather that the act of categorization was executed by top judges in this country (who I would call old fashioned to say the least).

    As for “proven record for governments in Jordan is that you should expect the worst”, I think that's a gross overstatement. There are many examples of government actions that have turned the future of this country upside down — to the better. Whether its improving the press law (compared to the '93 edition), doing economic reform (and lets face it, things ARE getting better in that retrospect), etc. I'm not saying the government is the best, or anywhere close! I'm just saying, I have a feeling you are keeping a few examples in mind and automatically assuming ill intentions, and I think at this point, with a new government, (whose appointment letter explicitly mentioned free speech, yadda yadda), we should at least – for the moment – remain objective regarding the intentions of the government.

  • Mohanned

    the appointment letters have been the same for the last who knows how many years. economic reform? Are you up to date on the dismal numbers the country has been producing? Even if you just look at numbers, did you take a look at the human toll those “reforms” had..Are we any less dependent on aid than we were before? What strategic projects have hit the ground in the last 10 years? Where are we on water? Where are we on energy? Where are we on deficit? Where are we on transparency? Where are we on accountability? Where are we on debt? Where are we on health care and education? where are we on honor killings? where are we on social justice? where are we on democratization?

    A “new” government? Are you sure about that? How “new” samir rifai and his team are? The formula for running the country has proven that it is not good, I think it is about time the governing model is changed. This sense of “newness” is the exact intention of the ongoing process of appointing “new” governments that receive the same appointment letters.

    Plus, if the government has any good will, they will simply cancel the law, just the way they approve temp laws in the absence of a Parliament.

  • Before all else, to get to the point: yes, canceling the law and approving a new temp law is the way to go.

    As for the other mentioned topics; I refer to changes that have occurred from '99 until recently. When it comes to the government, you and I disagree on a couple of fundamental levels. I certainly would like to continue the debate (either in future posts or in correspondence), but I think doing so here will only divert attention from the important issue at hand; namely stirring up a conversation that motivates the Jordanian blogosphere to take actionable measures with (some) unity.

    When it comes to this topic, you and I agree to some extent (more so than on the gov. at least!). Our attitudes are very different, but I would attribute that to our different views on the intentions of the government, etc.

    My main points when it comes to this topic are namely – 1. any anti-defamation law must occur in a different context, not related to the media; 2. the existing law is controversial as is; 3. new legislation should be passed instead of using the current mess we have., etc.

  • eyas,

    I don't think ,as you suggested above, that you can separate between press and publications on one hand and slander, defamation,calumny,…etc on the other. Both are intertwined and you can't separate one from the other. What you can do however is separate between press and publication law and cyber space since they aren't intertwined as of now. The Internet is fairly new phenomenon and not too many laws are governing the content of this virtually implicit world. most countries with exception of few are steering away from legislating the content of the websites in their countries. The only thing they did so far is block the entry to some websites without resorting to any legislative procedures.Jordan is no different, in my opinion government official are so far at a loss, they don't know exactly what to do with this new phenomenal that suddenly emerged in the Kingdom. They tried to include electronic media to fall under the umbrella of the main stream media but I think that the main stream media refused to put itself at a parallel path with the electronic media and soon enough the project was quickly axed. In recent history we heard that the electronic media was going to establish some sort of code of ethics for themselves, but that too died quickly because the only too people that were spearheading the project didn't believe in it themselves they just wanted to do something and that was the only thing that they come up with but regrettably was not good enough. Up to this moment the government stayed mum about the court ruling, the only thing we heard is that the government spokesperson is going to meet at a later date with the minister of Justice to sort things out and see what they can come up with. At this point in time I don't think that anyone has an answer for this dilemma. There are too many challenges facing the country and this particular topic doesn't represent even third rate priority. I would say that they are going to let this topic simmer on the boilerplate for a while.

  • Moreover, while ideally there should be much more tolerance when speech is about public figures, if not by codifying this tolerance in the law then at least by practice where an independent judiciary body exists, we know that the first, most, and maybe only, cases where a law such as this will be used is when public figures are the subjects of criticism.

  • zeidinio

    هذا رأي بعض اصحاب المواقع الأردنية
    http://www.jordandays.tv/showVideo1.aspx?VidId=940

    اما بالنسبة لك يا طراونة بلاك ايرس ارجو ان تقبل دعوتنا لاجراء لقاء معك بصفتك صاحب مدونة لها وزنها لدى فئة معينة من المجتمع حول الموضوع. بالطبع هذه ايضا دعوة مفتوحة للجميع.
    شكرا للأصدقاء في حبر رمزي و لينا على طرح هذا الموضوع على موقعهم

    زيد ابوعودة
    jordandays.tv

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  • Mohanned

    Here is a drill from the minister of PR messes Nabil el Sharif:
    http://www.alghad.com/?news=477311

    The fact the some dared to criticize the involvement of Jordan in the war on terror was more than enough for the minister to accuse them of “reckless insolence” and “implicit support for terrorism”.

    What do you think now? Good will?

  • ramseytesdell

    now, more than ever does the Jordanian blogosphere, supported by our online international community, need to prove that we can come together, act collectively, and influence policy.

    Its time to turn conversation into action my friends. its not just an option or an act of good will, our very livelihoods may depend on it.

  • raghdabutros

    As things stand today, the court's ruling is tantamount to censorship. One aspect of the law was applied in this particular case, but it sets a precedent for all other aspects of the law to be applied in future cases. It would not be practical for the government to trace or pursue every person who says anything it doesn’t approve of online, but they won’t need to; fear, and a couple of other similar rulings, will take care of the matter for them.

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  • I don't think its relevant to begin with — that was a response to a statement directed to the government. The government has the right to respond with any lofty words they chose. The expression was not made on a blog but rather an open statement to the government; it'd be wrong if the government did NOT respond, since the letter was directed to them. They call it reckless insolence, well, if we as citizens advocate freedom of speech of the people; we should accept at least some degree of freedom of speech for the government.

    The fact that such open letter was not greeted with any legal action, is also indicative of the way things *might* go; that is, the government responds verbally but not legally restricting expression. I'm not sure if I'm self loathing or surrendered, but for me, I'd be completely fine if – when I criticize the government in a post or an article – all I get back is being called “reckless”. No?

  • Agreed! I really am looking forward to some suggestions to start coming up about how to campaign/lobby/and channel our voices on the matter.

    I suggest an open letter and/or petition of some sort; something like “The Amman Web Message” (similar to the King's initiative, the amman message); along with that, using our networking to direct people in power to the website and pressuring them to follow suggestions written there.

    How does that sound for action?

  • raghdabutros

    In addition to the traditional use of letters and petitions, let's launch a massive tweet/blog/video/cartoon/photo/facebook etc.campaign with a multitude of different people expressing their views about the importance and value of free expression in as many ways as possible. This will reflect two key points:

    1. The sheer diversity of means of expression online, and the vast number of people who use them, means that no control or censorship is possible
    2. That we will not be intimidated into self-censorship and will not stop expressing our views and ideas out of fear

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  • zeidinio

    اراء المواطنين حول قرار قضائي قطعي يخضع المواقع الإلكترونية في الأردن للرقابة
    http://www.jordandays.tv/showVideo1.aspx?VidId=946

  • dimajweihan

    I believe that this issue should be left to “online” newspapers to regulate.

    Self-regulation is an international trend amongt media outlets. Now, it is maybe very ambitious to call for self-regulation for ALL media outlets in Jordan, but I think that extending the application of the Press and Publications Law to online media is legally wrong; even our Audiovisual Law excluded the “internet”.

    I understand that there are online newspapers, which commit professional and legal mistakes/voilations, but the solution should not be including all online newspaper. the solution should be agreeing on self regulation; “code of conducts”, which are a trend now, can be a solution. To agree on what criteria of an online media outlet that entitles it for some kind of regulation, what constitutes a voilation, and what does not, what “penalties” should be applied?

    We still have a problem with out Press and Publications Law that it refers to “criminal” penalties, while the interntaional practise is to apply “civil” penalties. which is another story!

    to conclude, regulating online media outlet to ensure “professional” conduct is one thing, and extending a controversial law on outlets that it cannot cover, is something else.

    Professional practise can be guaranteed by self regulation only, and anything other than this is an additional voilation to the Right of Freedom of Expression.

  • Alaa Halassa

    لمتابعة اخر المستجدات حول هذه القضية انضم لمجموعة:
    قل “لا” لأي قوانين تحد من حرية الانترنت في الأردن
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=255259498
    و شاركنا بالمستجدات ايضا

  • Mohanned

    “we should accept at least some degree of freedom of speech for the government.”

    This is just hilarious.An unelected government with absolute power needs us to accept them having some freedom of speech. Plus don't you think that the minister's choice of words is indicative of how such “opinions” will be treated by the government with the absolute power and the tools to persecute any oppposition?

    Reckless definition as the Jo gov “might” see it:a threat to national security, national unity and the economic well being of the nation.
    And isn't a letter a type of “print media”?
    How about that?

  • ree7

    But what's new about this issue? Lets be honest for a little bit, many bloggers had the pleasure of getting a phone call from people in government telling them to lay off the material the post on their websites. And who ever feels that he/she might get into trouble for posting his/her thoughts in a blog can use alias names. In my point of view – which is a ridiculously cheerful one – is that this could be the proof of our own integrity and supporting our articles with facts, although it would be a good idea to lay off the religious-questioning thoughts

  • “And isn't a letter a type of “print media”?”
    Well, if it is, no action has been taken, so that's good news. But I don't think a letter qualifies as a type of print media to begin with, a letter isn't a “publication”, nor is it part of the traditional sense of ma6boo3at (which is not “print media” but rather “press”).

    “Plus don't you think that the minister's choice of words is indicative of how such “opinions” will be treated by the government with the absolute power and the tools to persecute any oppposition?”
    Let me tell you that: I don't like the government's opinion of opinions. But as long as it remains a spoken opinion and doens't translate into something more serious (which, my whole point, is that I think and hope it'll be the case) — i.e. action, I'd be fine.

    “An unelected government with absolute power needs us to accept them having some freedom of speech”
    First, governments themselves are very seldom elected (the the U.S. for example; cabinet is “autocratically” appointed by head of state). But I get it.. there's no parliament to endorse it, and that does count, sure. But regardless of the way the government came into place, as individuals, they still have the civil rights of expression, don't they? Denying the gov. freedom of expression becuase you think they don't deserve it is little to no different from the government denying us freedom of expression because we're not worthy; don't you tihnk?

  • zeidinio

    حقيقة القدرة التقنية للحكومة على مراقبة مواقع الإنترنت
    http://www.jordandays.tv/ArticleDetails.aspx?Ai

  • Mohanned

    The letter is a ma6boo3a because it was published every where..
    What guarantees that their actions will stay at the verbal reply stage? If so, then lets codify it in the law. I am not willing to give the government the tools to persecute me, even thought they “might” not use it! It is like saying, X can shoot me and I will let him/her have a gun, as long as he/she “might” not shoot me!!See the absurdity of the argument? Oh, but the government will say: we have the gun for your own good, so that you don't deviate..

    I don't want to drift off..But yeah governments aren't elected, but Parliaments and presidents are.

    “But regardless of the way the government came into place, as individuals, they still have the civil rights of expression,”
    Regardless? Really? The way they came into place has everything to do with it. Plus, what sort of expression are we talking about? Acting like first graders when responding to opposition?

    Seriously!

  • farahelsharif

    people should understand the new Websites and the Publication Law before they attack it so insistently. educate yourself: personal blogs are *not* included under it. only commercial “news sources” like Khabberni and other tabloid-style websites will be monitored to protect individuals from bias, slandering and blackmail.such publications do not serve the freedom of press: they often get away with publishing with no integrity whatsoever, feeding on cheap and immediate sensationalism to make a few gullible citizens feel “informed”.

  • First, my argument is NOT that I'm oaky with the law and its new interpretation (i think that's clear from other posts); my argument is that my speculation is that the “worst case scenario” that you speak of won't happen. So really, the next quote isn't a proper response, since I'm not willing to give the government these tools to begin with!! I'm just saying, I don't think they'll use it — a completely separate argument.

    “I am not willing to give the government the tools to persecute me, even thought they “might” not use it!”

    “Regardless? Really? The way they came into place has everything to do with it. Plus, what sort of expression are we talking about? Acting like first graders when responding to opposition?”
    You ignored my next statement when quoting me, which puts the entire sentence into context.
    Taking the Bush administration, and the entire US media for that matter, between 2001 and 2003, they villified any figure that was against the iraq war, calling them traitors/unamerican/etc. Obviously, we criticize that today; and in the same way I will criticize our government's statements going on today. BUT, I criticize them while bearing in mind that our government (and the bush administration and all the US media at that time) are not oppressive regimes because of that (they might be oppressive, but for other reasons). Noone denies freedom of speech, press, and expression in the United States; yet the government sometimes gets itself dirty in a war of wars, I don't think its much of an issue (as long as it doesn't turn into action, again). Even the Obama administration got itself dirty with a war of words with fox news (but in that cause I'd root for the Obama administration, personally 😛 ), still not indicative of any suppression of Fox news or any other media source.

  • That's the common sense assumption, and that's the best case scenario, and that's the scenario that would make ~70% of us happy here.

    But will that be the case? All phrasing right now is ambiguous. The Press and Publication LAw is ambiguous as well on what is prohibited. These questions and so-called “grey areas” that haven't been determined yet ARE what are worrying most of the people here.

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  • Mohanned

    Ok I am going to stop now..But why do you keep comparing us to the US? Here I can make a pen holder of Bush's a$$ and make money out of it.

    Point is: No for giving the government tools to silence or persecute anyone, even if they “might” not use such tools. No place for worst or best case secenarios, there must be one scenario: No scenarios.

  • Well, cause there are a lot of examples that involve the US, and they *do* get my point across.

    Anyways, “No for giving the government tools to silence or persecute anyone, even if they “might” not use such tools” — my point exactly in the whole post; so naturally, I agree.

    My opinion however is that if an individual's right to seek retraction should be retained without using the press and publication law, but a separate – more neutral – entity. The government doesn't have a right to defend “itself” against slander, but if a person in the government is personally attacked; I would have no problem seeing a law separate from the Press & Publication law, that doesn't include as many problems as it does, and have it allow that government individual from seeking retraction against slander in the court (as an individual). In such cases, investigations are made, and if the claims against the individual have no integrity, then ruling should be in favor of that individual; claims with integrity, however, no matter how harsh the criticism they give, however, would ensure the plaintiff doesn't win, and the writer is protected.

  • rimasaifi

    I also agree this should be the only law enforced in this case on all Websites and Blogs.

    Article 17 in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,which refers to defamation:

    1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
    2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
    And as you said it's impossible to monitor the whole internet.it's the only tool that really gives the sense of freedom. I hope they do clarify what is meant by this law.

  • Ahmad Al-Sholi

    @ hatem: if the minister had sex with one of his interns lets say, and the story fully evolved after thorough investigation to be true. While doing that, are you slandering the minister? Think Clinton's case, how long did it take to drag him to court as a full case developed, during that, was any one accused of slandering the president?
    I meant with the decorations, that such laws are the little nuts and bolts of a democratic system. That all parties of a society have means of law to defend and act while we miss the system but have the little nuts and bolts. Until then, this can be no more than an administrative tool to control, to abuse authority with a superficial law that counts well in some international reports. ” The government is suing the newspaper ” looks democratic.

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  • zeidinio

    Jordan's E-Newspapers fighting back Censorship by the state
    البيان لا يلوح باجراءات تصعيدية وانما يلمح لتعاون وشيك وانصياع لمطالب الحكومة بغطاء (شرعي) من المواقع الالكترونية الموقعة على البيان.

    عزيزي القارىء من السهل معرفة ما يجري بالخفاء عنك اذا ما تتبعت طبيعة المواقع الموقعة على البيان و المواد التي تنشرها و من هم القائمين عليها اصلا .

    فهل من كل عقلك تصدق بأن فلان او علان من الموقعين سيقف بوجه الحكومة ؟!! انتبه جيدا عزيزي القارىء فأنت المستهدف الاول و الأخير. طالب بصحافة الكترونية حرة واحذر المؤامرات

  • يقترح مكان بداية الحكاية ويدعوكم للمشاركة برواية القصة مثل لعبة القطار بإضافة الجملة التالية وذلك بمشاركتكم عبر مدوّنة مكان,
    يمكن إضافة جملتك بالعربي أو الإنجليزي.

    http://tinyurl.com/yasptyx

    خلينا نشوف وين آخرتها!

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  • zeidinio

    مسودة القانون المعدل – قانون جرائم انظمة المعلومات لسنة 2009

    http://www.jordandays.tv/ArticleDetails.aspx?Ai

    نهاية حرية التعبير قادمة اليكم من خلال هذا القانون!!

  • I completely agree Sir. Defamation, which is a unique trait of Jordanian Internet news portals, is no longer an acceptable one. It is about time that Jordanian internet media catch up with the spirit of ethical reporting that is based on truth proven by “FACTS.”

  • A part from self-restriction that may not work and is an ambitious concept, considering that we are in fact an underdeveloped nation and self restriction requires full comprehension of legal rights and responsibilities, how can one guarantee preserving the right of others on internet ? how can you differentiate between real news and voiced opinions that very well are based on one person’s misperception of a fact. I will take the example of the videos on 7ibr.com with regard to the topic at hand, where you can find not one but several “Journalists” attacking the government not for the law but for the intention that they think the government has for extending the law to include internet publications. When the law is clearly focused on anti-defamation and protecting the people of Jordan from incitements and preserving the unity of the nation, in what part of that do you see a malicious intention to control, contain and eventually suppress free speech?
    In order to rise up to the level of international journalism, people working in this field must walk a fine line between telling the truth that can be proven and infringing the rights of others. Otherwise where can you draw the line? Is it not the government’s obligation to protect its citizens and is it not the government’s obligation to preserve unity? Anyone who follows internet portals in Jordan realizes that such unrestricted harmful practices have been the norm and there was no sign of even an attempt to self restrict.
    Once again I say that if you are a serious journal and you report based on facts you have nothing to worry about.

  • I completely agree Sir. Defamation, which is a unique trait of Jordanian Internet news portals, is no longer an acceptable one. It is about time that Jordanian internet media catch up with the spirit of ethical reporting that is based on truth proven by “FACTS.”

  • A part from self-restriction that may not work and is an ambitious concept, considering that we are in fact an underdeveloped nation and self restriction requires full comprehension of legal rights and responsibilities, how can one guarantee preserving the right of others on internet ? how can you differentiate between real news and voiced opinions that very well are based on one person’s misperception of a fact. I will take the example of the videos on 7ibr.com with regard to the topic at hand, where you can find not one but several “Journalists” attacking the government not for the law but for the intention that they think the government has for extending the law to include internet publications. When the law is clearly focused on anti-defamation and protecting the people of Jordan from incitements and preserving the unity of the nation, in what part of that do you see a malicious intention to control, contain and eventually suppress free speech?
    In order to rise up to the level of international journalism, people working in this field must walk a fine line between telling the truth that can be proven and infringing the rights of others. Otherwise where can you draw the line? Is it not the government’s obligation to protect its citizens and is it not the government’s obligation to preserve unity? Anyone who follows internet portals in Jordan realizes that such unrestricted harmful practices have been the norm and there was no sign of even an attempt to self restrict.
    Once again I say that if you are a serious journal and you report based on facts you have nothing to worry about.

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