Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In support of Internet freedom in Jordan

Jordan is today (August 29) staging a country-wide Internet blackout to protest two censorship articles the government is due to pass this week – new amendments in the online media law and the new censorship decision for pornography websites.

I am joining the protest and Internet blackout in the same spirit I protested against SOPA/PIPA -- the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate  -- because I oppose censorship. I believe in freedom of speech and in keeping the Internet open and free.

It is also consistent with two events in July that cemented this yearning and defense of a free Internet: The Declaration of Internet Freedom and the landmark July 5 vote by the United Nations Human Rights Council (A/HRC/20/L.13) endorsing a resolution upholding the principle of freedom of expression and information on the Internet.

An article in Wamda says the “the new policy… will strongly hinder local media, entrepreneurship and development in the country.” 

Wamda, which is a platform designed to empower entrepreneurs in the MENA region, writes: “The major threats are twofold: first, the amendments would force every single website to register with the Journalism Syndicate.”  This, sources say, “would potentially subject it to assessment of whether it is consistent with ‘Jordanian culture.’

“Secondly, the law would make website owners liable for the content posted in their comment sections. Any comment deemed offensive could incur fines some say are around 10,000 JD ($14,000), which could immediately shut down a web-based startup. The daily cost of moderating a website, not to mention an entire community of user-generated content like those on famous Jordanian pioneers d1g or Jeeran, would quickly become astronomical."

New site 7oryanet (Freedom, O Internet) is encouraging today’s blackout to raise awareness about the amendments before the deadline. It offers up-to-date information on the law's developments, also including information on how to protect against pornography.

7oryanet explains the protest action on its site:

Last week, specifically on Wednesday 22 August, Jordanians woke up to the shocking news that the Government of Jordan approved a draft bill amending the Press and Publications Law for the year 2012 that will include online media under the umbrella of the legislation. The law restricts Internet Freedom and will affect negatively the digital rights of Jordanian citizens.

The draft was swiftly sent to the Parliament, and it was discussed during the extraordinary session on Sunday 25 August. A second hearing will be held on Thursday 30 August. This is why we’re holding this blackout and need your support.

Why should you support the blackout and why is the law devastating to Jordan:

  • Censorship The law allows the head of Press and Publications to block any international website that is in violation with the law. This means non-Jordanian sites can be blocked for any reason.
  • Limiting freedom of speech the law also censors and monitors your comments, which will be monitored and censored! Website owners will be responsible for the comments posted by citizens, thus having to censor user comments themselves. They also have to store all comments for a period of at least 6 months.
  • Ambiguous The provisions of the law are very ambiguous, it states online media, which could include based on the government’s discretion: social networks, photo and video sharing sites, blogs and more
  • Restrictive The law puts a lot of limitations on websites, which disturbs freedom of speech, not only does it force websites to register and become members of the press association, appoint a chief editor, and pay membership fees, it allows courts to prosecute any website!
Related posts:

Activists Plan Blackout Tomorrow to Protest ICT Censorshipin Jordan – Wamda, August 28, 2012

Wednesday Blackout: Jordan Moves To Censor The Internet, AgainThe Black Iris, August 27, 2012

For a free and open Internet – July 12, 2012