In the future, Internet users in Jordan will see less of the Internet than people in most other countries of the world. According to a report by the news agency Petra, access to hundreds of Jordanian websites in the country will be blocked. The 7iber media organisation’s blog reports that Fayez al-Shawabkeh, head of the Jordanian Press and Publications Agency, has sent a list to the Commission for Telecommunications Regulation (TRC). The list had been sent to the country’s Internet providers with a request to block the listed offers from 2 June.
The list includes many blogs and apparently professionally run news services. Since the law was passed in September 2012, website operators have had time to apply for a news license.
“The blockade is not intended to restrict freedom,” according to a statement by the authority, “but ultimately to regulate and protect the work of these websites”. Only Jordanian news sites licensed by the press ministry will be accessible to the Jordanian population in the future.
The blacklist has caused different reactions in the Jordanian blogger and press landscape. Some bloggers see the licence regulation as a measure against an “unworthy and extremely irresponsible” local press. For others, it is clear censorship.
Some news sites have joined forces to protest against the regulation; Al Bawaba, a news portal, is on the list of unlicensed sites, but according to its own statement has not yet been affected by the website ban.
Meanwhile, the press authority would like to thank websites that took care of a license early on. At the same time, the remaining site operators are being asked to apply for a license in order to carry out their “noble and respectable” work.
Jordan has a state-controlled National Human Rights Centre in accordance with the relevant UN Conventions. Its tasks include the documentation of human rights violations and the dissemination of the human rights culture in the country: the latter, for example, through the training of multipliers and the introduction of human rights education in schools.
In addition, there are several independent organisations that work in various ways to ensure respect for human rights and human rights education in the country: Mizan Law Group, the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies, the SIGI/Jordan women’s rights organization, and the Jordanian branch of Save The Children (Youth and Children’s Rights).
In the current annual report on Jordan, the human rights organization Freedom House describes Jordan as “partially free” with respect to the Internet and “not free” with respect to the media and press. Amnesty International criticises the continued use of the death penalty in Jordan. However, the number of death sentences carried out has fallen. Human Rights Watch deplores discrimination against women and girls, the lack of freedom of expression and torture in many prisons, but also highlights positive legal reforms, including for equality for the disabled. Human Rights Watch also criticises the fact that peaceful demonstrators are brought before special courts in Jordan. Equal Rights Trust has also published a critical report on torture in Jordan.
The Jordanian constitution is ambivalent about human rights. On the one hand, fundamental civil liberties are guaranteed. On the other hand, Jordanians’ human rights can be subordinated to “national interests”. The constitutionally guaranteed equality of men and women is for the most part worthless, because in civil status and inheritance law, depending on religion, church law or the Sharia, which in its Jordanian version places women and girls at a very great disadvantage, apply. Another factor that restricts the human rights of Jordanians is the anti-terror legislation passed in 2006.
Jordan’s media landscape is mainly Arabic-speaking, but there are also some English-speaking media. In the international press freedom ranking by Reporters Without Borders, Jordan currently ranks 132nd out of 180, with the free country occupying first place. The US-based organization Freedom House describes Jordan as “not free”.
According to the current press law, journalists working for local media in Jordan must be members of the state-controlled Jordan Press Association (JPA). This association can exclude journalists if they do not report in line with the line. The press law prohibits critical reports about the royal house, the army, members of parliament and “friendly foreign politicians”. Violations of these provisions are only punished with prison sentences in exceptional cases, but the fines have skyrocketed. Freedom of the press continues to be hampered by the fact that the state holds large stakes in Jordan’s main daily newspapers.
The audiovisual sector was liberalised by law in 2004. Since then, several private radio stations have been licensed. In 2005, the formerly pure Internet radio AmmanNet, a culturally and politically independent and ambitious station, went on air in the Amman metropolitan area on an FM frequency and was thus able to reach considerably more listeners than before. In 2008, the AmmanNet label was replaced by Radio Al-Balad. AmmanNet was also actively involved in the founding of Zahrat Al-Aghwar (“Flower of the Jordan Valley”), the first women’s community radio station in Jordan. Access to the Internet can still be monitored by the Jordanian government due to technical reasons. According to reports by Reporters Without Borders, it has been restricted several times in Jordan in recent years. The organization global voices warned against possible Internet censorship. In individual cases, authors of Internet content were prosecuted and imprisoned in Jordan.