Jordan to Apply Press Law to Digital Content

Jordan has long stood out as a beacon in a region of heavy Internet filtering. Bordered by--among others--Syria and Saudi Arabia, two of the Middle East's worst offenders, Jordan has filtered only one Web site,, for the past decade.

That is all about to change.

On January 14, popular Jordanian blog ArabCrunch reported that Jordan's high appeal court has decided to extend the reach of the country's print and publications law to any electronic medium (ArabCrunch sourced the information from Arabic-language site Ammon), a decision that could have implications not only for Internet filtering, but also for bloggers and social media users. The press law prevents publication of material that is deemed offensive, or could imply criticism of the government, national unity or the economy.

The New York Times noted:

Critics of the ruling worry that the law will be widely applied to social media, possibly even SMS and to websites that allow reader comments to be posted. Supporters appear to argue that free speech comes with responsibilities along these lines and that the legal framework actually facilitates online communication.

ArabCrunch spoke to Nidal Mansor, the President of the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists who stated that Jordanian journalists could face trial and subsequent imprisonment for violating the press code. It remains to be seen whether ordinary citizens (non-journalists) will be subject to the law for postings made on blogs and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

For a more detailed explanation of the ruling, see Jordan Times. English/Arabic news and translation site Meedan is continuously translating news from Arabic sources here as well.