Yesterday, Jordan’s high appeal court has decided to extend the reach of Jordan’s print and publications law to any electronic medium . The court’s decision, issued last week but published yesterday only today, empowers authorities to prosecute or impose fines on any electronic medium of Publishing from SMS to the Internet user from Twitter user, to facebook, to journalists, bloggers and editors for publishing online material that the law finds wrong.
Basil Okur, editor of the famous Jordanian online news site Ammon said that he will comply with the law but wondered how the law will be implemented? taking into consideration the technical challenges law enforcement will face.
He told ArabCrunch that according to the court order, a publication definition is any thing published, meaning anything circulating online: forums, Tweets, blog posts and comments , Facebook wall comments and email. Some others, even believe that SMS is included in the law!
On his part, Mutasem Demou Lawer, Mu’tasim Dmour Executive Director, The Arab Society for Intellectual Property (ASIP) said that the law extends to any medium that has any written word or ideas.
This means your Tweet might get you to prison. Some others said for example if you did not loggin to your facebook account for about a week and someone commented in your fan page or profile and the comment contained word that can be punished by the law you will be subject a fine or be prosecuted by the law.
Monitoring the law seems like mission impossible according to Okur as the Internet is full of millions of posts and comments. And as the gmail accounts of some human rights activists were hacked in China and the hacking Google’s domain name in Morocco last year by Pakistani hackers. Basil Okur wondered what will happen if someone hacked a site and added his content or a small comment that might be deemed illegal by the law? he said his site receives thousands of comments everyday!
This law has another implications to news sites that has the commenting system up and running and to the growing list of Jordan’s user generated startups and companies. As Jeeran or Yahoo Maktoob for example provide a blogging platform, does this mean Jeeran and Yahoo Maktoob will be responsible to any comment posted in to their 100,000 plus blogs? and forced to shut down by authorities?
The same case implies to iKbis, Watwet, D1G, your blog ArabCrunch!
Nidal Mansor, President of Center For Defending Freedom of Journalist told ArabCrunch that there is no prison punishment in Jordan’s print and publications law but said that Jordanian journalist could face court trails under different laws which might result into imprisonment.
However, The law does include fines and the closing of the publication!
Nidal questioned whether under the new law websites needs to have registration as a print publication and whether its owners need to be registered with the journalist union as the law for print print media stipulates.
In my part I ask are all Jordanians who have Internet access and mobile phones are considered as journalists now?
( PS: I called and emailed Joanne Kubba from Google Middle East PR, Jeeran’s CEO Omar Kudsi and Yahoo VP Middle East Ahmed Nassef for comments in this news, but until the publishing of this post there was no answer from neither one.
Update: Google Spokesman said that Google has no comment at this stage. ArabCrunch will keep you posted with more in this story.)