Jordan’s Online Press Freedom: One Year Later

May 29, 2014

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)  and the International Press Institute (IPI) have both revisited the issue of online press freedom in Jordan this week in two published articles.

Last year, amendments to the press and publication law mandated that any website that publishes “news, investigations, articles, and comments related to Jordan’s internal or external affairs … is required to register and get licensed by a decision from the director [of the press and publication department].” Furthermore, licensing required that a website’s editor in chief be a member of the Jordan Press Association (JPA) for at least four years.

In”IPI calls for repeal of news website licensing in Jordan: Report urges overhaul of Press and Publications Law, changes to anti-terror amendments“,  the institute presents a report titled “Press freedom in Jordan: Amending the licensing law for news websites”.  The report mentions how blocking  “not only caused disruptions and financial hardship for the rapidly growing Internet news market, but the law itself sets a dangerous precedent for other Middle East governments to impose similar obligations on the news media.” According to Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie, “IPI believes Jordan’s registration requirement unjustly imposes direct government control over Internet news providers, giving political authorities the power to decide who can operate, who is in charge of editorial direction, and gives them the authority to revoke the licence… Jordan’s regulation represents unfair interference in the global exchange of ideas and information and goes against the government’s own assurances that they support independent media and uncensored access to information.” The article also mentioned the ” chilling effect on the media by encouraging self-censorship”.

Self-censorship was also an issue CPJ’s article, ” Jordan’s free press record dims with website restrictions” broached. According to the article,  “[a] self-censorship index compiled by the Jordanian Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists jumped significantly in 2013, and the center’s survey of Jordanian journalists found that 21.3 percent believed that media freedom had retreated dramatically during the year, compared with 14 percent in 2012.” In the article, writer Sherif Mansour, MENA Program Coordinator, interviews and quotes various Jordanian editors, including 7iber’s Lina Ejeilat.  “The idea that a not-so-bad country can get away with not-so-bad restrictive measures is unsettling to Jordanian journalists,” writes Mansour.