|A Obstacles to Access||13 25|
|B Limits on Content||17 35|
|C Violations of User Rights||17 40|
Internet freedom in Jordan declined during the reporting period. The government restricts and blocks access to the internet, including social media platforms, during politically sensitive events. Online journalists, activists, and social media users are prosecuted for their criticism of the government, based on a number of laws that penalize legitimate expression online. Additionally, authorities issued a myriad of gag orders, limiting reporting on Teachers’ Syndicate protests and the alleged coup plot that occurred in April 2021. Activists and journalists were pressured to remove online content, and local media were pushed to limit their coverage of critical topics online. Access to the internet has improved significantly in recent years, although concerns about state surveillance of online activity persist.
Jordan is a monarchy in which the king plays a dominant role in politics and governance. The parliament’s lower house is elected, but the electoral system continues to put the opposition at a disadvantage despite recent reforms, and the chamber wields little power in practice. The media and civil society groups are hampered by restrictive laws and government pressure. The judicial system lacks independence and often fails to ensure due process. In April 2021, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein was reportedly involved in an attempt to take power from King Abdullah II. The monarch proclaimed the crisis over later that month, after Prince Hamzah pledged allegiance to him.
- In July and August 2020, amid protests related to the closure of the Teachers’ Syndicate headquarters, authorities throttled the bandwidth of Facebook Live, where users had been sharing videos of the government crackdown on protesters (see A3 and B8).
- In March 2021, following the deaths of COVID-19 patients due to an oxygen shortage in a hospital, authorities once again disrupted access to Facebook Live (see A3 and B3).
- In April 2021, in the aftermath of the alleged coup attempt linked to Prince Hamzah, a two-day internet shutdown impacted parts of western Amman. Additionally, a general prosecutor issued a gag order banning media from reporting on the coup plot (see A3, B5, and B8).
- In March 2021, Jordanian officials blocked Clubhouse, an audio-only social media app, on a number of major internet service providers (ISPs). Clubhouse remained blocked as of June 2021, though users have reported that they could access it through censorship circumvention tools (see B1).
- Fewer internet users received long prison sentences during the reporting period. A cartoonist was arrested, charged under Jordan’s antiterrorism law, and faced five years’ imprisonment for a caricature published in an online magazine, though the charge was later downgraded to libel (see C3).
|Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections?||5.005 6.006|
Jordan’s internet infrastructure improved significantly after telecommunications providers launched fourth-generation long term evolution (4G LTE) technology for mobile networks in 2015. More than 90 percent of Jordan’s population is now covered by 4G LTE infrastructure.1 In September 2020, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), the sector regulator, announced that they were planning to roll out fifth-generation (5G) technology.2
According to the most recent data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), internet penetration stood at 66.8 percent.3 As of January 2021, there were 6.8 million internet users and 8 million mobile connections in Jordan.4 Internet speeds have increased in recent years. As of June 2021, the average mobile download and upload speeds were 24.53 megabits per second (Mbps) and 17.14 Mbps, respectively. The average fixed-line broadband download and upload speeds were 78.54 Mbps and 68.70 Mbps, respectively.5
According to the TRC, the majority of Jordanians access the internet on their phones. By the end of 2020, 72.9 percent of all internet subscriptions were mobile broadband subscriptions. The number of fiber-optic subscriptions was also increasing.6
In December 2018, mobile service provider Orange Jordan announced that it had invested $84.6 million into doubling its network coverage and improving infrastructure. According to the company’s chief executive, its expanded fiber-optic networks will enable Jordan to develop into a regional information and communication technologies (ICT) hub.7
- 1“State of Mobile Internet Connectivity 2018,” GSMA Intelligence, August 2018, https://www.gsmaintelligence.com/research/?file=c0bcc185be555f77478a8fd….
- 2“Jordan gearing up for 5G services: TRC,” Jordan News Agency, Accessed September 2021, https://www.petra.gov.jo/Include/InnerPage.jsp?ID=18823&lang=ar&name=en….
- 3“Percentage of individuals using the Internet 2000-2018,” International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 2019, https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/statistics/2021/July/….
- 4Simon Kemp, “Digital 2021: Jordan,” Datareportal, February 12, 2021, https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-jordan.
- 5“Global Speeds May 2021,” Speed Test Global Index, May 2021, https://www.speedtest.net/global-index.
- 6“Telecommunications Market Indicators in Jordan (Up to Q3/2020),” Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Jordan, March 10, 2020, https://trc.gov.jo/EchoBusV3.0/SystemAssets/PDF/AR/Statistics/Market%20….
- 7Mohammad Ghazal, “Orange Jordan investing JD60 million to improve coverage,” The Jordan Times, December 12, 2018, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/orange-jordan-investing-jd60-mill…; “Currency Converter: Jordanian Dinar to US Dollar,” Oanda, December 12, 2018, https://www.oanda.com/currency/converter/.
|Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons?||1.001 3.003|
Internet access varies based on socioeconomic status, gender, and geography. The taxation of mobile internet service is considered a key barrier to access, particularly for low-income individuals.1
An annual survey published by the Department of Statistics found that in 2017, 10.5 percent of respondents cited high costs as a reason for not accessing the internet, up from 8.5 percent in 2016. The survey also showed that cost impedes access more in rural areas, where 17.3 percent of residents do not access the internet due to service costs, compared to 9.5 percent in urban areas.2 However, prices for internet service have dropped in recent years due to competition, despite the fact that the sales tax on internet service increased from 8 percent to 16 percent in 2017.3 The monthly price for a 1 terabyte (TB) home-broadband subscription with one major provider cost 19.83 Jordanian dinars ($28) in June 2021, excluding the 16 percent sales tax.4 Monthly mobile internet prices range from 8 dinars ($11.28) for a 40 GB plan to 11 dinars ($15.52) for a 70 gigabyte (GB) plan as of February 2021.5
According to 2018 data from the Pew Research Center, 87 percent of adults in Jordan go online and smartphone usage is widespread. While a majority of adults ages 50 and older use smartphones, older Jordanian adults are far less likely than their younger counterparts to use them. According to the report, gender differences in internet use in Jordan are “modest”; for example, 85 percent of men reported they use at least one social media platform or messaging app, in contrast to 78 percent of women. Home computer or tablet access is relatively rare in Jordan, as 52 percent of adults use the internet but do not have a computer or tablet at home.6
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2021 Inclusive Internet Index found that men’s access to the internet slightly exceeds women’s by 5.1 percent, while men’s mobile phone access is 4 percent higher than women’s access.7
Mobile service providers Zain8 and Umniah9 both offer access to Facebook’s Free Basics initiative, which provides free access to a limited number of websites under a zero-rating plan known as Facebook Flex.10
- 1“State of Mobile Internet Connectivity 2018,” GSMA, August 2018, https://www.gsmaintelligence.com/research/?file=c0bcc185be555f77478a8fd….
- 2“ICT in Households Report for 2017,” Department of Statistics and the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, December 24, 2018, http://inform.gov.jo/en-us/By-Date/cid/56/Ministry-of-Information-Commu….
- 3“Gov’t raises minimum wage, hikes taxes on tobacco, telecom services,” The Jordan Times, February 9, 2017, https://perma.cc/HT6N-H8X8.
- 4“Home Broadband Offers,” Zain Jordan, Accessed June 2021, https://www.jo.zain.com/english/Pages/4GLTEHome.aspx.
- 5“Internet Prepaid Plans,” Zain Jordan, Accessed February 2021, https://eshop.jo.zain.com/plans/internet/prepaid.
- 6Laura Silver et al., “Mobile Connectivity in Emerging Economies,” Pew Research Center, March 7, 2019, https://pewrsr.ch/2SCztZ6.
- 7“The Inclusive Internet Index 2021,” The Economist Intelligence Unit, Accessed August 2021, https://theinclusiveinternet.eiu.com/.
- 8“Promotions & Services,” Zain Jordan, Accessed July 2019, https://www.jo.zain.com/english/consumer/voice/prepaid/promotions/Pages….
- 9“Facebook Flex,” Umniah, Accessed July 2019, https://www.umniah.com/en/internet/mobile-internet/facebook-flex/.
- 10“Where we’ve launched,” Internet.org by Facebook, Accessed July 2019, https://info.internet.org/en/story/where-weve-launched/.
|Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity?||3.003 6.006|
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 due to localized internet restrictions around Amman following a reported coup attempt in April 2021.
The government exercises some control over the internet infrastructure. During the reporting period, the government restricted internet connectivity and throttled bandwidth to Facebook Live.
In April 2021, following what the authorities referred to as a coup attempt, internet and telecommunications services were cut off for at least two days in the Dabouq neighborhood of Amman. The localized shutdown occurred in the same area where the royal palace is located and where royal family members live, including Prince Hamzah, who was accused of participating in the plot.1 There were also reports that some virtual private network (VPN) services were also inaccessible during this time (see B1).2
Authorities also restricted bandwidth to social media platforms throughout the reporting period. Amid protests and strikes by members and supporters of the Teachers’ Syndicate in July and August 2020, Facebook Live was reportedly disrupted on several occasions, particularly during larger demonstrations.3 In March 2021, protests took place in several Jordanian cities after COVID-19 patients died due to oxygen shortages. Authorities responded to protests by throttling access to Facebook Live and blocking Clubhouse.4 While Facebook Live was only temporarily inaccessible, Clubhouse remained blocked by ISPs at the end of the coverage period (see B1).5 In July and August 2020, it was reported that Facebook Live streaming was restricted several times by some ISPs as Jordanians protested the closure of the headquarters of the Teachers’ Syndicate, one of the remaining independent unions in Jordan.6 Facebook Live has been disrupted in the past, including in December 2018 and January 2019 during antiausterity protests.7 While the government has denied restricting access to Facebook Live, many social media users maintained that the authorities were behind the disruptions (see B3 and B8).8
Starting in 2015, the government ordered ISPs to block access to messaging apps on days that secondary school students sit for their national exam (Tawjihi).9 In 2018, the number of blocked apps reached seven, including WhatsApp, Messenger, Twitter, and Instagram. Although the restrictions are confined to locations near examination halls and limited to the time period surrounding the exams,10 they drew criticism again in 2020 from activists who consider them excessively restrictive and lacking a legal basis.11
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services are restricted by some ISPs. In 2016, the TRC blocked an attempt by Jordanian mobile service providers to impose fees on the use of VoIP services.12 However, providers then blocked VoIP calls on services like WhatsApp and Viber, causing users to see an error message if they try to make such a call, while Messenger, Telegram, and Skype remained accessible.
Orange Jordan remains the landing party for the FLAG FEA submarine cable,13 the only east-west cable that serves Jordan.14 However, a number of providers, like Damamax and LinkDotNet, have independent international connectivity.15 International connectivity is also provided via terrestrial connections from neighboring countries as an alternative to submarine cables. In 2015, the Regional Cable Network (RCN) was launched to provide a high-capacity terrestrial fiber-optic network from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Amman,16 an addition to the established JADI (Jeddah-Amman-Damascus-Istanbul) link in operation since 2010.17
- 1Agencie France Press (AFP), “Jordan's Prince Hamzah strikes defiant tone amid palace turmoil,” Yahoo! News, April 5, 2021, https://uk.news.yahoo.com/jordans-prince-hamzah-strikes-defiant-0931508…; https://www.7iber.com/technology/%D8%AD%D8%AC%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%…; https://newlinesmag.com/reportage/jordan-everyone-is-hamzah/.
- 2Reem Al-Masry, “About Blocking Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in Jordan [in Arabic],” 7iber, April 26, 2021, https://www.7iber.com/technology/%D8%AD%D8%AC%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%….
- 3Netblocks, “Facebook Live streams restricted in Jordan during Teachers’ Syndicate protests,” July 29, 2020, https://netblocks.org/reports/facebook-live-streams-restricted-in-jorda….
- 4Access Now, “Jordan’s internet throttling to censor protesters must end,” March 19, 2021, https://www.accessnow.org/jordan-protest-throttling/.
- 5Issa Mahasneh, “Blocking Clubhouse in Jordan: A Quick Analysis of Internet Censorship Methods in Use,” Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA), April 13, 2021, https://www.josa.ngo/blog/78/blocking-clubhouse-in-jordan-a-quick-analy….
- 6“Facebook Live streams restricted in Jordan during Teachers’ Syndicate protests,” Netblocks, September 2, 2020, https://netblocks.org/reports/facebook-live-streams-restricted-in-jorda….
- 7“Jordanian gov denies blocking internet from 4th Circle area during weekend protests,” Roya News, December 2, 2018, https://en.royanews.tv/news/16118/Jordanian-gov-denies-blocking-interne….
- 8“Fourth Circle Protests Receive Little Media Coverage, Old Photos Circulate Social Media Platforms,” Akeed, December 2, 2018, http://www.akeed.jo/en/post/1877/Fourth_Circle_Protests_Receive_Little_….
- 9Ibrahim Mbaydeen, “The government blocks Tawjihi classrooms’ access to three applications [in Arabic],” Al-Ghad, June 20, 2015, https://perma.cc/4J9J-PWXV.
- 10Muath Hamideh, “7 Applications Blocked inside Tawjihi Halls,” Khaberni, January 9, 2018, https://perma.cc/6KXQ-2DJY.
- 11“Blocking applications due to Tawjihi, between public freedoms and the needs of the educational process,” Roya News, July 13, 2020, https://royanews.tv/news/219067.
- 12Mohammad Ghazal, “No Charges on Online Calling Apps- Telecom Commission,” The Jordan Times, March 16, 2016, https://perma.cc/H6NT-5PHA.
- 13“Voice and Data solutions,” Orange Jordan Wholesale, October 14, 2017, https://www.orange.jo/sites/wholesale/documents/pdf/ws_brochure.pdf.
- 14“Our Network,” Global Cloud Xchange, September 30, 2019, https://www.globalcloudxchange.com/infrastructure/our-global-network/.
- 15Doug Madory, “Orange Jordan Goes Black,” Dyn Blog, August 14, 2012, https://dyn.com/blog/orange-jordan-goes-black.
- 16“RCN (Regional Cable Network), New Terrestrial route connecting ME to Europe, goes live,” Zain Jordan, May 10, 2015, https://zain.com/en/press/rcn-regional-cable-network-new-terrestrial-ro….
- 17“Jeddah Amman Damascus Istanbul Network (JADI),” Orange Jordan, Accessed October 2017, https://www.orange.jo/sites/wholesale/en/pages/jadi.aspx.
|Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers?||3.003 6.006|
Licensing of telecommunications providers and ISPs is regulated by the TRC. Article 20 of the Telecommunications Law requires providers to secure a license in order to establish, operate, and administer telecommunications networks and provide telecommunications services.1 For an ISP, the initial license fees are $42,000.2
Generally, licenses are awarded “to all qualified applicants,” though this does not always apply in practice. The law lists what it calls “objectively justifiable reasons not to grant licenses,” such as national security restrictions, scarce resources, technical limitations, and “when award of the license would lead to an anticompetitive environment in the market.”3
Three mobile service providers dominate the market: Umniah, a subsidiary of Batelco Bahrain, Zain, and Orange Jordan.4 Each provider controls more than 30 percent of the market. Orange Jordan is 51 percent owned by Orange SA of France, with the remaining shares divided between Jordan’s Social Security Corporation, Noor Telecommunications, and others.5 In July 2018, the Ministry of ICT (MoICT)–created in 2002 to drive the country’s ICT development—confirmed that the government had no intention to license a fourth mobile service provider.6 In May 2019, it was renamed the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship (MoDEE).
After rejecting proposals from two international providers, the government awarded Zain Jordan the rights to introduce 4G LTE mobile services, which it did in 2014. In 2015, Orange Jordan was awarded the second 4G license for $100 million.7 Also in 2015, a third 4G license was granted to Umniah for an equivalent price.8 In 2017, FRiENDi, Jordan’s only mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) and part of Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa, suspended its operations due to financial losses.9
The market power of the largest telecommunications provider, Orange Jordan, has been diluted in recent years. Orange’s de facto monopoly on the international gateway and local backbone has been eroded by competitive terrestrial international connectivity and new fiber-optic backbones established by other providers.10 In addition, long-awaited regulations to enforce full local loop unbundling (LLU) were issued by the TRC in 2017,11 six years after the move was first announced, in an effort to introduce more fixed-line-sector competition by forcing Orange to open its networks to other providers. However, according to a TRC report released in 2019, LLU “has not been implemented effectively,” limiting its competition-encouraging effects.12
- 1“Licensing of Public Telecommunications Networks and Services,” The Official Site of the Jordanian e-Government, Accessed September 2019, https://perma.cc/976Z-3TLF.
- 2“Instructions Regarding the Application Procedures and Criteria for the Award of Public Telecommunications Individual and Class Licenses,” Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, December 2, 2004, https://trc.gov.jo/EchoBusV3.0/SystemAssets/PDF/AR/ترخيص%20الاتصالات/ال….
- 3“Instructions Regarding the Application Procedures and Criteria for the Award of Public Telecommunications Individual and Class Licenses,” Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, December 2, 2004, https://trc.gov.jo/EchoBusV3.0/SystemAssets/PDF/AR/ترخيص%20الاتصالات/ال….
- 4Mai Barakat, “Jordan will be challenging, but a fourth operator might find elbow room as a mobile broadband provider,” Ovum, February 21, 2013, http://bit.ly/1JBMhUg; “About Umniah,” Umniah, Accessed October 2019, https://www.umniah.com/en/about-umniah/; “Financial Highlights,” Zain, Accessed October 2019, https://www.zain.com/en/investor-relations/facts-figures/; “Welcome to Orange Jordan,” Orange, Accessed October 2019, https://www.orange.com/en/Group/Orange-in-the-world/countries/Welcome-t….
- 5“Annual Report 2020,” Orange Jordan, Accessed September 2021, https://www.orange.jo/en/documents/annual_report/orange-annual-report-2….
- 6Malek Ubaydat, “Gharaibeh to JO24: The Market is not in Need of a Fourth Operator [in Arabic],” JO24, July 14, 2018, https://www.jo24.net/post.php?id=278547.
- 7Mohammad Ghazal, “Orange launches 4G in Amman, to expand nationwide by Q3,” The Jordan Times, May 26, 2015, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/orange-launches-4g-amman-expand-n….
- 8“Umniah granted 4G licence,” The Jordan Times, June 14, 2015, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/umniah-granted-4g-licence.
- 9“FRiENDi Jordan suspends operations in Kingdom,” The Jordan Times, February 12, 2017, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/friendi-jordan-suspends-operation….
- 10Natalija Gelvanovska, Michel Rogy, and Carlo Maria Rossotto, Broadband Networks in the Middle East and North Africa: Accelerating High-Speed Internet Access. Directions in Development--Communication and Information Technologies, Washington DC: World Bank, 2014, 162.
- 11Ibrahim Mubaidin, “The TRC Makes LLU Service Available [in Arabic],” Al Ghad, July 29, 2017, https://perma.cc/6UVN-F9FX.
- 12“Public Consultation: Review of Fixed Markets in Jordan,” Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, July 2019, https://perma.cc/PE6D-4ZMT.
|Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner?||1.001 4.004|
The TRC, the sector regulator, does not always operate in an independent manner. It is governed by the Telecommunications Law and defined as a “financially and administratively independent juridical personality.”1 Nonetheless, it is accountable to the MoDEE.2 The TRC’s board of commissioners and chairperson are appointed upon nomination by the prime minister based on the recommendation of the digital economy minister.3 The Telecommunications Law endorses free-market policies and governs licensing and quality assurance.4
- 1“Chapter III,” The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Jordan, Accessed September 2021, https://trc.gov.jo/Pages/viewpage?pageID=1.
- 2“Telecommunications Law – Article 4,” Wipolex, Accessed September 2021, https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/legislation/details/14952.
- 3“Telecommunications Law – Article 4,” Wipolex, Accessed September 2021, https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/legislation/details/14952.
- 4“Jordan: One Social Network With A Rebellious Message,” Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, 2009, http://anhri.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/One-Social-Network-With-A-R….
|Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards?||3.003 6.006|
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because authorities blocked the social media platform Clubhouse, which has been widely used for activism. Additionally, some tools utilized for censorship circumvention also became inaccessible during the reporting period.
In 2021, service providers blocked the audio-only social media app Clubhouse, in addition to VPNs that enable users to bypass censorship.
Clubhouse was blocked in mid-March 2021, after protests were held in several cities over an oxygen shortage that led to the deaths of COVID-19 patients. Clubhouse remains inaccessible in Jordan as the end of the coverage period; however, some users have reported being able to access it via VPNs.1 Clubhouse was widely used by activists, public figures, and dissidents—including those residing outside Jordan—and was able to attract a growing user base of Jordanians who used the platform to freely discuss the political situation in the country. The blocking was criticized by several journalists and activists, who argue that authorities blocked the platform to restrict freedom of expression and opinion.2
Several Clubhouse users have resorted to using VPNs to bypass the blocking. However, it was reported that widely used VPN apps were blocked shortly after Clubhouse became inaccessible. ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN, NordVPN, and TunnelBear were inaccessible on a number of major service providers.3 There have been no previous restrictions on VPNs in Jordan, although the TRC warned against their use in 2019.4
In June 2021, after the coverage period, the Media Commission (MC), which was previously named the Press and Publications Department, announced that it blocked an unspecified number of websites that violated licensing regulations.5 In 2019, new licensing regulations were enforced by the MC and 45 news sites were subsequently blocked after failing to obtain licenses (see B6).6 However, many of these sites have since successfully applied for licenses and their access has been restored. As of June 2021, the total number of licensed news sites stood at 132.7
In March 2019, the MC blocked Al-Urdunyya, an opposition news site based outside Jordan, a few hours after its launch, because it did not have a license. The owners were not notified of the decision.8 The website stopped its operations by March 2021.
The online publication 7iber became inaccessible for 12 hours in July 2018. In a short statement published on the outlet’s Twitter account, the editors publicly asked the government to determine the entity responsible for the block, as no order was apparently issued by the government.9
In 2017, the MC reissued an order from 2016 to block access to the local LGBT+ online magazine My.Kali after an Islamist member of parliament, Dima Tahboub, requested an inquiry into the site.10 It remained inaccessible at the end of the coverage period.
- 1Issa Mahasneh, “Blocking Clubhouse in Jordan: A Quick Analysis of Internet Censorship Methods in Use,” Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA), April 13, 2021, https://www.josa.ngo/blog/78/blocking-clubhouse-in-jordan-a-quick-analy…; Vittoria Elliott and Michael Zelenko, “Jordan’s government used secretly recorded Clubhouse audio to spread disinformation,” Rest Of World, July 12, 2021, https://restofworld.org/2021/jordan-clubhouse-tiktok-disinformation/.
- 2“ حادثة الأمير حمزة تشعل نقاشات أردنية ساخنة على "كلوب هاوس [The incident of Prince Hamzah ignites heated Jordanian discussions on "Clubhouse"],” Arabi21, April 4, 2021, https://arabi21.com/story/1349158/%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%AB%D8%A9-%D8%A7….
- 3Reem Al-Masri, “عن حجب الشبكات الافتراضية الخاصة (VPN) في الأردن, [On the Blocking of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in Jordan],” 7iber, April 26, 2021, https://www.7iber.com/technology/%D8%AD%D8%AC%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%….
- 4“TRC warns Jordanians of VPN applications,” Roya News, December 11, 2019, https://en.royanews.tv/news/19446/2019-12-11.
- 5“هيئة الإعلام تحجب مواقع إلكترونية مخالفة [The Media Commission blocks illegal websites],” RoyaNews, June 14, 2021, https://royanews.tv/news/248516.
- 6“The Media Commission Blocks 45 News Websites [in Arabic],” Al Rai, February 12, 2019, https://perma.cc/T6NY-J39P.
- 7“Electronic Publications [in Arabic],” Media Commission, Accessed June 2021, http://www.mc.gov.jo/Pages/viewpage?pageID=60.
- 8“Blocking a news website for Jordanian dissidents abroad [in Arabic],” Arabi21, March 18, 2019, https://perma.cc/EW82-DUQB.
- 97iber, @7iber, “We are still waiting for a clarification from the government about who is responsible for the inaccessibility of the site for 12 hours, taking into account that any entity capable to block [sites] should belong to the government, at least constitutionally [in Arabic],” Tweet, July 3, 2018, https://twitter.com/7iber/status/1014094569963651077.
- 10MJ Mohavedi, “Gay-Bashing in Jordan—by the Government,” Human Rights Watch, August 30, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/08/30/gay-bashing-jordan-government.
|Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards?||1.001 4.004|
State pressure on editors of news sites and online activists to delete content is relatively common.
In June 2020, cartoonist Rafat al-Khateeb deleted a caricature he published on his Facebook page after being attacked on social media and threatened with legal prosecution. The cartoon, which was posted shortly after the murder of George Floyd in the United States, depicted former prime minister Omar Razzaz kneeling on the neck of a citizen. Ultimately, no legal action was taken against al-Khateeb.1
In August 2020, Prince Ali bin Hussein, the half-brother of King Abdullah, deleted a tweet he published with a link to an article denouncing the UAE-Israel deal. The tweet included a picture of posters of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, with the Arabic word “traitor” written across them. The tweet had obtained more than 900 retweets before being removed.2 According to media sources, the tweet disappeared after King Abdullah ordered Prince Ali to delete it to preserve Amman’s relationship with the UAE.3
In June 2020, Ghada Al-Sheikh, a journalist for liberal media network Raseef22, was forced to remove an online report about the LGBT+ community in Jordan after receiving online threats.4 Right-wing Islamist politician and former member of parliament Dima Tahboub called on people to block Raseef22 on social media. The website is still accessible in Jordan.5
In December 2018, the Facebook page of the Al-Wakeel News site removed a post containing a doctored image of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper that had provoked widespread indignation. In the doctored painting, which was considered offensive to Christians, Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gökçe, also known as Salt Bae, sprinkles salt on Christ’s food. The website’s publisher, Mohammed al-Wakeel, apologized and said the post was the result of a mistake by a trainee editor.6 However, al-Wakeel was later arrested for inciting religious strife with the post.
In August 2018, the website of the Al Rai newspaper deleted an opinion piece criticizing government efforts to restore relations with the Syrian regime less than an hour after it was published. Al Rai does not frequently challenge the government’s positions, and analysts reported that the removal was due to pressure from “unnamed entities.”7
- 1“The State of Media Freedom Index in Jordan 2020 [in Arabic],” Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, Accessed June 2021, https://rev2.cdfj.org/media-freedom-index/%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%8…; “Alert Jordan – Rafat Alkhateeb,” Cartooning For Peace, Accessed September 2021, https://www.cartooningforpeace.org/en/soutiens/alert-jordan-rafat-alkha….
- 2Nadda Osman, “Jordanian prince sparks controversy after tweeting article denouncing UAE-Israel deal,” Middle East Eye, August 26, 2020, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/jordan-prince-ali-bin-hussein-contro….
- 3“صحيفة عبرية: بن زايد هدد بطرد ربع مليون أردني بسبب تغريدة [Hebrew Newspaper: Bin Zayed threatened to expel a quarter of a million Jordanians because of a tweet],” Al Khaleej Online, September 9, 2020, http://khaleej.online/PW2ape.
- 4“Threats against the Raseef22 team ... when a large part of our society exercises the role of oppressive power [in Arabic],” Raseef22, June 29, 2020, https://raseef22.net/article/amp/1078854/%c3%98%c2%aa%c3%99%e2%80%a1%c3….
- 5“Jordan blocks access to LGBTQ online magazine,” Refworld, August 8, 2017, https://www.refworld.org/docid/5a0f00124.html.
- 6Zoie O’Brian, “Journalist is arrested in Jordan for publishing altered image of The Last Supper that had Salt Bae seasoning Jesus's food,” Daily Mail Online, December 10, 2018, https://dailym.ai/2Wl1FSa.
- 7“For only an hour and banned from publishing in the government newspaper Al Rai [in Arabic],” Raialyoum, August 27, 2018, https://perma.cc/4SSU-6RUG.
|Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process?||1.001 4.004|
Restrictions on the internet and digital content sometimes lack transparency and proportionality. The apparent sporadic blocking of Facebook Live around protests during the coverage period (see A3), in addition to 7iber’s inaccessibility in July 2018 (see B1), raised concerns about the lack of transparency in blocking procedures.
Following the throttling of Facebook Live in 2020 and March 2021, as well as the blocking of Clubhouse and VPN tools beginning in March 2021, civil society groups raised concerns that the restrictions were performed extralegally, particularly because authorities failed to provide justification for these restrictions. Officially, the TRC is the entity responsible for issuing blocking orders to ISPs. However, the TRC has stated that it does not possess the authoritative power to restrict access to such services without a legal order.
In the reoccurring cases of disruptions to Facebook Live streaming, which began in 2018, a former ICT minister claimed that the upload speed of Facebook Live videos was reduced by excessive traffic, and that no orders were issued to throttle bandwidth to the platform.1 However, a joint technical report from the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) and the Jordan Open Source Association found that Facebook Live was temporarily interfered with during the 2018–19 protests.2 During another Facebook Live disruption in 2021, sources within the telecommunications sector confirmed that authorities indeed blocked Facebook Live broadcasting for several hours.3
In March 2021, after Clubhouse was reported inaccessible during the protests that escalated after a number of COVID-19 patents died at the al-Salt hospital, the head of the TRC stated that his agency “has nothing to do” with the blocking of the app, while the digital economy minister stated that Jordanian networks were operating normally. However, several activists who were active on the app stressed that the authorities were behind the blocking.4 Furthermore, the TRC denied that they had issued any orders to block VPN tools and that they had not received any complaints regarding the inaccessibility of VPNs. However, some VPN companies confirmed they received complaints from users in Jordan who were unable to connect.5
Officially, the blocking of news sites is carried out according to the Press and Publications Law (PPL), amended in 2012, which stipulates that news sites need to obtain a license from the MC or face being blocked. Publications subject to this provision are defined as any website “with a specific web address on the internet which provides publishing services, including news, reports, investigations, articles, and comments, and chooses to be listed in a special register maintained at the Department, pursuant to instructions issued by the Minister for this purpose.”6 Articles 48 and 49 of the law enable the MC’s head to block any website for failing to obtain a license or, more broadly, for violating Jordanian law. The law’s expansive definition of news sites could be interpreted to include almost all Jordanian and international websites, blogs, portals, and social networks.
The 2012 amendments to the PPL increased the liability of intermediaries for content posted on news sites, leaving outlets potentially responsible for readers’ comments. Clause 3 of Article 49 states that both the editors in chief and the owners of online publications are legally responsible for all content posted to their sites.7 Moreover, websites must keep a record of all comments for six months after initial publication and refrain from publishing any “untruthful” or “irrelevant” comments.8
- 1“Fourth Circle Protests Receive Little Media Coverage, Old Photos Circulate Social Media Platforms,” Akeed, December 2, 2018, http://www.akeed.jo/en/post/1877/Fourth_Circle_Protests_Receive_Little_….
- 2Issa Mahasneh and Simone Basso, “Jordan: Measuring Facebook live-streaming interference during protests,” Open Observatory of Network Interference, June 12, 2019, https://ooni.torproject.org/post/jordan-measuring-facebook-interference/.
- 3Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Jordan uses tear gas to clamp down on anti-lockdown protesters,” Reuters, March 16, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-jordan-protests/j….
- 4Mohammad Ersan, “ هل تخشى السلطات الأردنية تطبيق "كلوب هاوس"؟ [Are the Jordanian Authorities afraid of Clubhouse App?],” Arabi21, June 16, 2021, https://arabi21.com/story/1365906/%D9%87%D9%84-%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%B4%D9%89….
- 5Reem Al-Masri, “عن حجب الشبكات الافتراضية الخاصة (VPN) في الأردن, [On the Blocking of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in Jordan],” 7iber, April 26, 2021, https://www.7iber.com/technology/%D8%AD%D8%AC%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%….
- 6“The Press and Publications Law, as amended, No. 32 of 2012,” Jordanian Media Monitor, August 2013, https://perma.cc/KDB7-8JCM.
- 7“The Press and Publications Law, as amended, No. 32 of 2012,” Jordanian Media Monitor, August 2013, https://perma.cc/KDB7-8JCM.
- 8“The Press and Publications Law, as amended, No. 32 of 2012,” Jordanian Media Monitor, August 2013, https://perma.cc/KDB7-8JCM.
|Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship?||2.002 4.004|
The majority of Jordanian journalists continue to self-censor, as shown in different reports and surveys on media freedoms published by the Amman-based Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ). A 2020 report about media coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic indicated that self-censorship escalated as a result of the activation of the Defense Law by the government.1
A report published in 2021 shows that many media outlets practice prepublication self-censorship and that self-censorship was widespread among journalists as a result of the many violations they face, including lawsuits, intimidation, and detention (see C3 and C7). Specifically, the director of the Community Media Network, Daoud Kuttab, noted that journalists avoid critical topics and issues in their reporting.2
According to a survey covering 2018, a staggering 92 percent of journalists said they practiced self-censorship, down from 94 percent in 2017.3 When asked about taboo topics in the 2017 survey, 92 percent said they avoided criticizing the armed forces, a decrease from the previous year, and 94.5 percent said they feared criticizing the royal court.4
According to the 2017 CDFJ survey, the percentage of respondents who believed that media professionals avoided discussing sex-related topics increased in 2017, reaching 84.7 percent, the highest level in eight years. Avoidance of religious issues decreased slightly from the previous year to 80.4 percent; the assassination of writer Nahed Hattar by a religious extremist and threats from such extremists against journalists were the main causes of the higher percentage in 2016, the survey noted.
- 1“حالة حرية اإلعالم في األردن في ظل جائحة كورونا 2020 تحت الحظر [The State of Media Freedom in Jordan under the Corona(virus) Pandemic],” Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, June 29, 2020, https://cdfj.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Media-Freedom-Status-in-Jor….
- 2Tareq Dilwani, “الإعلام الأردني في 2020 مقيد والرقابة الذاتية تتضخم [Jordan Media in 2020 is Restricted and Self-censorship is Amplifying],” Independent Arabia, May 10, 2021, https://www.independentarabia.com/node/220831/%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%….
- 3“حالة الحريات اإلعالمية في األردن 2018 حرية عالقة [State of media freedoms in Jordan 2018],” Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, August 5, 2019, https://cdfj.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Media-Freedom-Status-Report….
- 4“حالة الحريات الإعلامية في الأردن تشرين الأول/ أكتوبر 2017 [The State of Media of Freedoms in Jordan, October 2017],” Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, September 11, 2017, http://bit.ly/2Frz6hW.
|Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest?||2.002 4.004|
The online information landscape continues to be limited by direct bans on reporting on certain topics, particularly during sensitive or tense events. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government issued a defense order that prohibited “publishing, re-publishing, or circulating any news about the epidemic in order to terrify people or cause panic among them” (see C2).1
During the reporting period, authorities issued reporting bans during politically sensitive moments. In April 2021, Public Prosecutor Hassan al-Abdallat banned the publication of any information related to a purported coup attempt involving Prince Hamzah.2 The media ban was issued “to preserve the confidentiality of an ongoing investigation” and prohibited the sharing of videos and audio related to the case on social media.3 According to the penal code, the violation of such an order carries a fine of up to 25 dinars ($35). The media ban was heavily criticized by journalists and social media users,4 prompting al-Abdallat to clarify that the gag order did not ban the publication of opinions protected under international freedom-of-expression standards, and that it was limited to the investigation documents and trial hearings.5
According to some media professionals, Jordanians had to resort to social media and foreign press to obtain more accurate and trustworthy information about the coup plot. For example, former information minister Jumana Ghuneimat confirmed that social media platforms have become the main sources of information, as local media outlets are restricted when any important event occurs (see B7).6
During the reporting period, authorities hindered coverage of demonstrations and protests. In March 2021, a media blackout of local reporting on protests related to the deaths of COVID-19 patients was evident,7 although the protests were widely covered on social media. In July 2020, the government issued a gag order that prohibited local media from reporting on the Teachers’ Syndicate protests.8
In 2018, a gag order restricted reporting on an investigation into the deaths of schoolchildren who were killed in a flash flood, 9 while another order issued the same year was related to a corruption case related to tobacco.10
Since the second half of 2016, two gag orders limiting independent coverage about the armed forces and the king have been enforced. All media outlets, including those that publish online, are banned from reporting news about the king and the royal family unless it is obtained from official bulletins released by the Royal Hashemite Court.11 The MC also bans publication of any reports about the armed forces outside of statements made by the forces’ media spokesperson.
In June 2019, according to Reporters without Borders (RSF), at least four Jordanian journalists were prevented from publishing articles critical of a conference in Manama, Bahrain, where economic aspects of an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan were presented by the United States. The conference was widely criticized in Jordan.
Jordanian journalist Oraib al-Rantawi, from the daily Ad-Dustour, said that eight of his articles, half of them on the Bahrain conference, were banned from publication. Two journalists from the daily Al Ghad, Majed Tobeh and Jamil Nimri, also said that their articles on the conference were banned. The editor of a Jordanian news site said the censorship came from the "security services,” which told editors not to publish any negative material on Jordan’s participation in the conference.12
- 1“Jordan: Free Speech Threats Under Covid-19 Response,” Human Rights Watch, May 5, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/05/05/jordan-free-speech-threats-under-co….
- 2“Jordan bans reporting on plot; labels palace feud a family affair,” Reuters, April 6, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/6/jordan-justice-bans-publishing-….
- 3Sarah Dadouch, “Jordan announces gag order on Prince Hamzah investigation after new recording is leaked,” The Washington Post, April 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/jordan-prince-gag-orde….
- 4“أردنيون يسألون عن حرية التعبير بعد حظر النشر في قضية الأمير حمزة [Jordanians ask about freedom of expression after the publication ban in the case of Prince Hamzah],” Al Arabi Al Jadeed, April 6, 2021, https://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%AF%D9%86%D9%8A%D9%88….
- 5“النائب العام في عمّان يكشف عن استثناءين في حظر النشر حول قضية الأمير حمزة بن الحسين [The Public Prosecutor in Amman reveals two exceptions to the publication ban on the case of Prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein],” CNN, April 7, 2021, https://arabic.cnn.com/middle-east/article/2021/04/07/jordan-pp-excepti….
- 6Shooroq Al Baw, “الإعلام الأردني في الأزمات.. تغييب يضرب مكانته ويضعف رواية الدولة [Jordanian Media during Crises: An Absenteeism that Hits its Position and Weakens the State's Narrative],” Akbar Al Urdun, April 16, 2021, https://jornews.com/c3/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A….
- 7“Facebook Live restricted in Jordan amid protests,” The New Arab, March 16, 2021, https://english.alaraby.co.uk/news/facebook-live-restricted-jordan-amid….
- 8“Facebook Live streams restricted in Jordan during Teachers’ Syndicate protests,” Net Blocks, July 29, 2020, https://netblocks.org/reports/facebook-live-streams-restricted-in-jorda….
- 9“Gag ordered on investigation of Dead Sea bus incident,” Jordan News Agency, October 27, 2018, http://petra.gov.jo/Include/InnerPage.jsp?ID=11089&lang=en&name=en_news.
- 10“Trial of ‘tobacco case’ ringleader to be public, televised,” The Jordan Times, December 19, 2018, http://bit.ly/2YkFpso.
- 11“Amman bans independent coverage of Jordan's royal family,” Middle East Eye, September 2, 2016, http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/jordan-bans-media-publishing-about-ro….
- 12“Jordan suppresses articles criticizing Bahrain conference,” Reporters Without Borders, June 28, 2019, https://rsf.org/en/news/jordan-suppresses-articles-criticizing-bahrain-….
|Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online?||1.001 3.003|
Several economic and regulatory constraints present obstacles for digital media in Jordan. For example, the PPL defines news sites as “electronic publications,” which subjects them to the same stringent restrictions imposed on print media by the 1998 PPL.1
Recent bylaws regulate online publications through a licensing process similar to that of print media. Specifically, in 2017, the MC issued a new bylaw that imposed a $2,100 licensing fee on news sites, as well as a $71 annual renewal fee.2 The amended PPL requires any electronic publication that publishes domestic or international news, press releases, or comments to register with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. One of the requirements for a general news site to obtain a license is to have an editor in chief who has been a member of the state-controlled Jordan Press Association (JPA) for at least four years. In 2014, the JPA law was amended to enable online media journalists to join the body. Prior to that, journalists could only become members if they underwent a period of “training” in an “official” media organization. Additional constraints were imposed in a separate bylaw issued in 2017, which requires news sites to hire at least five journalists.3
In late 2018, the MC began enforcing these licensing criteria more vigorously. That October, its director announced that, beginning in 2019, both online and print publications without a full-time editor who worked exclusively at that outlet would have 10 days to rectify the situation.4
- 1Toby Mendel, “Analysis of the Press and Publications Law, No. 8 for the Year 1998, as Amended,” UNESCO Amman Office, September 5, 2017, https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/updatedjordan.ppl-analysis.16….
- 2Prime Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, “The Official Gazette of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” July 2, 2017, http://pm.gov.jo/newspaperSubjects/5471/5471.html.
- 3Laila Azzeh, “Jordan Media Commission’s new law on news websites draws controversy,” The Jordan Times, July 28, 2017, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/jordan-media-commission%E2%80%99s….
- 4Niveen Abdelhadi, “«هيئة الإعلام»: لا ترخيص لأي مطبوعة ورقية أو إلكترونية جديدة دون رئيس تحرير متفرغ [Media Commission: No license for any new paper or electronic publication without a full-time editor],” Ad-Dustour, October 6, 2018, http://bit.ly/2OjkxOK; “ المطبوعات الالكترونية [Electronic Publications],” Media Commission, Accessed June 5, 2019, http://www.mc.gov.jo/Pages/viewpage?pageID=60.
|Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability?||3.003 4.004|
Although users can access a wide range of news sources and information online, including through social media, state censorship of online content reduces the variety of information available on the internet.
In 2020, many journalists stated that coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic lacked diversity and that the official governmental narrative was the only one represented in the media.1
The government’s blocking of news sites and other web content decreases the diversity of available information. Many of the censored websites focus on individuals and communities not well covered by traditional media, from political opposition based abroad to the LGBT+ community. However, the content of these websites is often accessible through other channels, such as Facebook and Twitter pages. Additionally, some websites are mirrored via different, nonblocked domains.
Following the 2012 amendments to the PPL, most news sites hired editors in chief who were already JPA members in order to meet the criteria to obtain a license, a concerning development for independent media given that most JPA members work in government or government-related media outlets.2 The narrow definition of a “journalist” according to the JPA law and the dominance of the JPA as a union are additional barriers to pluralism and diversity in online media.3
Although Jordan has the second-highest per capita proportion of refugees in the world,4 with 755,000 in the country as of May 2021,5 a 2015 study of four news sites found that only 2 percent of the media coverage in the sample focused on refugee issues.6
Google and YouTube are among the top 10 most visited websites in Jordan.7 As of March 2019, 71 percent of adult social media users in the country used Facebook, while 78 percent used WhatsApp.8 In 2017, King Abdullah launched a personal Twitter account.9 Other state leaders and institutions have established social media channels to communicate with the public, including the Royal Hashemite Court,10 the crown prince,11 and Queen Rania, who has millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram, leading Forbes Middle East to describe her as “the Queen of Social Media.”12
- 1“حالة حرية اإلعالم في األردن في ظل جائحة كورونا 2020 تحت الحظر [The State of Media Freedom in Jordan under the Corona(virus) Pandemic],” Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, June 29, 2020, https://cdfj.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Media-Freedom-Status-in-Jor….
- 2Sawsan Zaideh, “نقابة الصحفيين: احتكار بالقانون [The Jordan Press Association: A Monopoly by Law],” 7iber, February 16, 2015, http://bit.ly/1zhSXSw.
- 3“Assessment of media development in Jordan based in UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators,” UNESCO, 2015, https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000234425.
- 4“Jordan: UNHCR Factsheet, February 2021,” Relief Web, March 10, 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/jordan/jordan-unhcr-factsheet-february-2021.
- 5UNHCR, “Jordan,” May 2020, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/05%20-%20Jord….
- 6UNHCR, “Jordan,” April 2019, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/69371.pdf.
- 7“Top Sites in Jordan,” Alexa, Accessed July 2020, http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/JO.
- 8“Compare the rates of social media platform and messaging app usage in 11 countries around the world,” Pew Research Center, March 7, 2019, https://www.pewinternet.org/interactives/compare-the-rates-of-social-me…; Mohammad Ghazal, “Facebook, WhatsApp Overshadow Twitter in Jordan’s Social Media Sphere,” The Jordan Times, April 13, 2016, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/facebook-whatsapp-overshadow-twit….
- 9“King launches personal Twitter account,” King Abdullah II Official Website, March 26, 2017, https://kingabdullah.jo/en/news/king-launches-personal-twitter-account.
- 10Royal Hashemite Court, @rhcjo, Instagram, Accessed September 2021, http://instagram.com/rhcjo.
- 11Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, @alhusseinjo, Instagram, Accessed September 2021, http://instagram.com/alhusseinbinabdullahii.
- 12Queen Rania Al Abdullah, @QueenRania, Twitter, Accessed September 2021, https://twitter.com/QueenRania; Queen Rania Al Abdullah, @queenrania, Instagram, Accessed September 2021, https://www.instagram.com/queenrania/; Abderrahim Etouil, “Queen of Social Media,” Forbes Middle East, July 1, 2011, https://www.forbesmiddleeast.com/news/read/articleid/1914.
|Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues?||4.004 6.006|
Score Change: The score declined from 5 to 4 because authorities hindered online mobilization efforts in July and August 2020 by throttling bandwidth to Facebook Live amid protests and strikes by members and supporters of the Teachers’ Syndicate.
Social media was used throughout the reporting period to mobilize demonstrations and protests as well as to campaign and communicate about a number of issues. In some instances, authorities responded by restricting internet access and blocking or throttling social media platforms.
Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media services were important sources of information for Jordanians during the 2018–19 antiausterity demonstrations. According to a survey by the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies (CSS), around 60 percent of Jordanians said they obtained information on the protests through friends and social media, especially Facebook.1 Many protesters used Facebook Live to broadcast the demonstrations, and short video reports on the events received tens of thousands of views,2 overshadowing coverage by traditional or official media outlets, particularly in the first days.3 However, by the end of 2018 and into 2019, Facebook Live was blocked during weekly demonstrations. In July and August 2020, Facebook Live was once again throttled during strikes and protests by members and supporters of the Teachers’ Syndicate (see A3).4
Jordanians widely shared video clips and audio recordings released by Prince Hamzah, who was accused of participating in the purported April 2021 coup plot. One audio recording was played more than 270,000 times via a Jordanian Twitter account.5 Another leaked video from 2019, in which Prince Hamzah was seen confronting an alleged spy who later said he was tracking him, was viewed over 1 million times after being shared by an opposition figure outside Jordan.6 Authorities responded to the coup attempt by restricting connectivity in a western section of Amman (see A3). Furthermore, a public prosecutor there issued a reporting ban on information pertaining to the incident (see B5).
Sympathy for Prince Hamzah was clearly visible on social media, with tens of thousands of Jordanians changing their profile pictures to photos of the prince.7 Several hashtags were used to support him, while social media users criticized attempts to silence him.8 The hashtag #الامير_حمزة_حر_شريف [Prince Hamzah is Free and Honorable] trended in April 2021 and was featured in over 20,000 posts in a period of several hours.9 The hashtag #كلنا_الأمير_حمزة [We Are All Prince Hamzah] also trended in Jordan for several days.10 Following a media blackout, where Prince Hamzah made no comment for several days, concerns about his safety led to daily hashtag campaigns asking #Where_Is_Prince_Hamzah? (#أين_الأمير_حمزة).11 Prince Hamzah eventually made a public appearance with King Abdullah days after being placed under house arrest.12 A government spokesperson responded to the online support for Prince Hamzah by claiming that 120,000 fake social media accounts from outside Jordan were used to manipulate “public opinion” of the case.13
During the coverage period, social media users also took to Twitter to express solidarity regarding two cases of detention related to online speech. In August 2020, the hashtag #طلعوا_عماد_حجاج [Release Emad Hajjaj] trended in Jordan,14 which was used to demand the release of cartoonist Emad Hajjaj (see C3). Additionally, the hashtag #freedomforemadhajjaj was widely used by other cartoonists to share their own drawings sympathizing with Hajjaj.15 After journalist Jamal Haddad was arrested, a hashtag launched by the Jordan Press Association (JPA), #الحرية_لجمال_حداد [Freedom for Jamal Haddad], topped Jordan’s trending topics on Twitter in December 2020.16
Social media platforms were crucial in the country’s longest-ever teachers’ strike in September 2019. The strike of the 87,000 members of the largest Jordanian syndicate, the Jordan Teachers Association (JTA), started on September 8, 2019.17 During the next month, social media platforms provided a strong alternative to the coverage of the strike by traditional media. Many JTA supporters saw that coverage as government-led, hypocritical, and biased against the teachers.18 Teachers used apps like Facebook and WhatsApp to better organize the strike efforts; to spread messages in a consistent way through images, poetry, slogans, and other forms of art; and to support the JTA’s leadership.19 The hashtags #مع_المعلم [with the teacher] and #إضراب_المعلم [teacher’s strike] were prominently used on social media by users who supported the protests.20
- 1Rana Husseini, “68% of Jordanians supported June’s protests — poll,” The Jordan Times, July 5, 2018, https://perma.cc/S7YR-EMM3.
- 2Daoud Kuttab, “Jordan’s protesters are young and wary of their cause being hijacked,” Arab News, June 4, 2018, http://www.arabnews.com/node/1314946/middle-east.
- 3Anwar Ziadat and Lana Kazkaz, “Official Media Absent; Facebook Leading Protests,” AKEED – Jordan Media Credibility Monitor, June 4, 2018, http://www.akeed.jo/en/post/1742/Official_Media_Absent_Facebook_Leading….
- 4Netblocks, “Facebook Live streams restricted in Jordan during Teachers’ Syndicate protests,” July 29, 2021, https://netblocks.org/reports/facebook-live-streams-restricted-in-jorda….
- 5See Twitter post: @alurdunyya, Twitter, June 16, 2020, https://twitter.com/alurdunyya/status/1379175336672387081.
- 6See Facebook Post: @Alaa Alfazza, June 16, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/A.alfazza2/videos/4274162999274051/.
- 7Nabih Bulos, “For many Jordanians, palace’s official line on the wayward prince is an absurd fairy tale,” Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-04-09/jordanians-skepti….
- 8Osama Al Sharif, “Following a royal rift King Abdullah faces daunting choices,” Middle East Institute, April 16, 2021, https://www.mei.edu/publications/following-royal-rift-king-abdullah-fac….
- 9@RandaHABIB, “Hashtag trending in Jordan today on Prince Hamzah #الامير_حمزة_حر_شريف 20.4K tweets in 7 hours,” Twitter, April 13, 2021, https://twitter.com/randahabib/status/1381914708085768193.
- 10"كلنا الأمير حمزة" يتصدر على تويتر في الأردن [We are all Prince Hamzah tops Jordan’s Twitter],” Arabi21, April 5, 2021, https://arabi21.com/story/1349409/%D9%83%D9%84%D9%86%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84….
- 11Nabih Bulos, “For many Jordanians, palace’s official line on the wayward prince is an absurd fairy tale,” Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-04-09/jordanians-skepti….
- 12Suleiman Al-khalidi, “Jordan's King Abdullah and estranged Prince Hamza make first joint appearance since rift,” April 11, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/jordans-king-abdullah-estrang….
- 13“دودين : حملة سوداء على الاردن والمعارضة الخارجية أقل من أن تسمى “معارضة [Dudin: A black campaign against Jordan and the foreign opposition is too small to be called an “opposition”],” Fact International, April 21, 2021, http://factjo.com/news.aspx?Id=121616.
- 14“وسم #طلعوا_عماد_حجاج يتصدر "تويتر" في الأردن [The Hashtag #ReleaseEmadHajjaj on the Top of Twitter in Jordan],” Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, August 29, 2020, https://www.alaraby.co.uk/%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B9%D9%85%D8….
- 15“#FreedomforEmadHajjaj: Cartoonists Draw For The Freeing of Jordanian Caricaturist,” AlBawaba, August 30, 2020, https://www.albawaba.com/slideshow/freedomforemadhajjaj-cartoonists-dra….
- 16“#الحريه_لجمال_حداد يتصدر تويتر الأردن بعد عاصفة الكترونية [Freedom for Jamal Haddad Topping Jordan’s Twitter after Electronic Storm],” Roya News, December 25, 2020, https://royanews.tv/news/233242.
- 17“Jordan’s Local Media Coverage is Definitely Against The Teacher’s Strike But Why?,” Al-Bawaba, September 10, 2019, https://www.albawaba.com/node/jordans-local-media-coverage-definitely-a….
- 18Muhammad Swaidan, “Social Media and Teachers,” Al-Ghad, October 4, 2019, https://alghad.com/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B5%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9….
- 19Afaf Al-Khoshman, “Jordanian Female Teacher Activism in the Most Recent Teachers Strike,” 7iber, December 2, 2019, https://www.7iber.com/society/jordanian-female-teacher-activism-in-the-….
- 20“Jordan’s Local Media Coverage is Definitely Against The Teacher’s Strike But Why?,” Al-Bawaba, September 10, 2019, https://www.albawaba.com/node/jordans-local-media-coverage-definitely-a….
|Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence?||2.002 6.006|
Although the constitution contains some protections for free speech online, several laws, including the penal code, impose disproportionate or unnecessary restrictions in practice (see C2). Several constitutional amendments introduced in 2011 directly or indirectly touched on internet freedom. Terms such as “mass media” and “other means of communication,” which likely encompass online media, were added to provisions that protect freedom of expression and concomitantly allow for its limitation during states of emergency, among other provisions (see C5). Despite the passage of the Access to Information Law in 2007, a number of restrictions on requests for information about sensitive social and religious matters remain in place.1
Judicial independence is limited. The king unilaterally appoints the entire Constitutional Court and the chair of the Judicial Council, which nominates judges for the civil court system and is composed mostly of senior members of the judiciary.
- 1For example, the law bars public requests for information involving religious, racial, ethnic, or gender discrimination (Article 10), and allows officials to withhold all types of classified information, a very broad category (Article 13), see: “Summary of the Study on Access to Information Law in Jordan,” Arab Archives Institute, June 2005, https://arab.org/directory/arab-archives-institute/.
|Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||1.001 4.004|
A number of laws impose criminal penalties and civil liability for online speech.
With the rise of COVID-19 cases in Jordan, a royal decree was issued to activate the Defense Law No. 13 for 1992, an extraordinary measure that gives the prime minister the power to impose curfews, close businesses, and restrict freedom of movement, in March 2020.1 Then prime minister Razzaz assured Jordanians that political rights and freedom of expression would continue to be protected, and that the law would be applied to the “narrowest extent.”2 However, one of the executive ordinances issued under the activated law, Defense Order No. 8, prohibited “publishing, re-publishing, or circulating any news about the epidemic in order to terrify people or cause panic among them via media, telecommunications, or social media.” The order set penalties of up to three years in prison, a fine of $4,230, or both.3 The Defense Law and related orders are still in effect as of the end of the coverage period.
The penal code forbids any insult of the royal family, state institutions, national symbols, or foreign states, as well as “any writing or speech that aims at or results in causing sectarian or racial strife.” Defamation is also a criminal offense.4
The amended Cybercrime Law came into effect in 2015, with at least one provision that posed a serious threat to internet freedom. According to Article 11, internet users face at least three months in jail and a maximum fine of $2,800 if they are found guilty of defamation on social media or online media outlets. In practical terms, this means that journalists face harsher penalties for defamation online than in print publications, since the PPL prohibits the jailing of journalists for press offenses. In 2015, the Law Interpretation Bureau ruled that Article 11 of the Cybercrime Law supersedes other legislation, rendering journalists’ immunity under the PPL largely irrelevant,5 as they can be jailed for any defamatory articles that appear online.6
In 2017, the government proposed a series of controversial new amendments to the Cybercrime Law to explicitly cover hate speech. Protests and pushback from Parliament on the draft legislation’s broad language led the government to withdraw the proposal and say it would obtain input from civil society before redrafting it.7 However, the revised bill was soon returned to the parliament without feedback from civil society and its provisions attracted renewed criticism. The new text defined hate speech as “every writing and every speech or action intended to provoke sectarian or racial sedition, advocate violence or foster conflict between followers of different religions and various components of the nation,” a still-vague description that would leave reporters and social media users who address controversial issues vulnerable to prosecution.8 Those convicted of hate speech would face at least three months in jail, and no upper limit for punishment was stipulated, leaving suspects vulnerable to pretrial detention. The bill also criminalizes spreading rumors and false news, without providing a clear definition of the offenses, with up to two years in prison and a fine of between $1,400 and $2,800.9 The maximum penalty for defamation under the amended law would be two years in prison, and suspects would not face pretrial detention if charged with the offense. In February 2019, the lower house of the parliament rejected the bill.10 The legislation was finally withdrawn by the government in December 2018.11
A number of other laws continue to threaten access to information and free expression online. These include the 1959 Contempt of Court Law, the 1960 penal code, the 1971 Protection of State Secrets and Classified Documents Law, the 1992 Defense Law, the JPA Law, and the PPL.
The PPL bans the publication of “material that is inconsistent with the principles of freedom, national obligation, human rights, and Arab-Islamic values.”12 Article 38 of the law prohibits any “contempt, slander, or defamation of or abuse of” religions or prophets. The same article prohibits the publication of any material that is defamatory or slanderous of individuals, who are also protected against “rumors” and “anything that hinders their personal freedom.”13 Journalists, website owners, and other internet users face a range of possible fines for violating the law.14
In early 2014, a law was passed to limit the jurisdiction of the quasi-military State Security Court to terrorism, espionage, drug felonies, treason, and currency counterfeiting. The court had previously tried journalists, protesters, and other critics of the government.15 However, amendments to an antiterrorism law passed in mid-2014 essentially reversed that move by expanding the definition of “terrorism” to include a broader range of activity.16 In addition to offenses such as attacking members of the royal court or provoking an “armed rebellion,” the definition of terrorism now includes any acts that “threaten the country’s relations to foreign states or expose the country or its citizens to retaliatory acts on them or their money,” an offense that had already been listed in the penal code.17 The law also explicitly penalizes the use of ICTs to promote, support, or fund terrorist acts, or to subject “Jordanians or their property to danger of hostile acts or acts of revenge.”18 Rights activists complain that these draconian provisions can be used to prosecute critics of the regime, including those active online.
- 1Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Jordan's monarch announces state of emergency to combat coronavirus,” Reuters, March 17, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-jordan/jordans-mo….
- 2“Jordan: State of Emergency Declared,” Human Rights Watch, March 20, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/20/jordan-state-emergency-declared.
- 3“Jordan: Free Speech Threats Under Covid-19 Response,” Human Rights Watch, May 5, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/05/05/jordan-free-speech-threats-under-co….
- 4“Jordan: A Poetic Security Threat,” Human Rights Watch, September 3, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/09/03/jordan-poetic-security-threat.
- 5“Jordan’s Online Media at stake,” International Press Institute, November 19, 2015, https://ipi.media/jordans-online-media-freedom-at-stake/.
- 6Daoud Kuttab, “Losing the Arab Spring accomplishments?” The Jordan Times, March 9, 2016, https://perma.cc/6CSD-54FU.
- 7“Jordan to review ‘extremely worrying’ cybercrimes law,” The New Arab, December 10, 2018, https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/12/10/jordan-to-review-extr…; Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Jordan to rethink controversial cybercrimes law,” Reuters, December 9, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-jordan-dissent-online/jordan-to-reth….
- 8Ignacio Miguel Delgado Culebras, “Changes to Jordan's hate speech law could further stifle press freedom,” Committee to Protect Journalists, February 20, 2018, https://cpj.org/blog/2018/02/changes-to-jordans-hate-speech-law-could-f….
- 9“Cybercrime bill redrafted with new hate speech definition, reduced slander penalty,” The Jordan Times, December 11, 2018, https://perma.cc/3JZC-6FW9; “Cybercrime law in Jordan: pushing back on new amendments that could harm free expression and violate privacy,” Access Now, February 19, 2019, https://www.accessnow.org/cybercrime-law-in-jordan-pushing-back-on-new-…; Walid M. Sadi, “Jordan need not reinvent the wheel when passing judgement on cybercrime law,” The Jordan Times, December 15, 2018, https://perma.cc/43GC-VYYK; “Jordan: ‘Fake News’ Amendments Need Revision,” Human Rights Watch, February 21, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/21/jordan-fake-news-amendments-need-re….
- 10“MPs reject new amendments to Cybercrime Law,” The Jordan Times, February 19, 2019, https://perma.cc/UZ32-9GDZ; “Latest Cybercrime Law amendments once again risk curbing free speech in Jordan,” MENA Rights Group, April 11, 2019, https://www.menarights.org/en/articles/latest-cybercrime-law-amendments….
- 11Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Jordan to rethink controversial cybercrimes law,” Reuters, December 9, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-jordan-dissent-online-idUSKBN1O80IW.
- 12“The Press and Publications Law, as amended, No. 32 of 2012,” Jordanian Media Monitor, August 2013, https://perma.cc/A4FX-NQWX.
- 13“The Press and Publications Law, as amended, No. 32 of 2012,” Jordanian Media Monitor, August 2013, https://perma.cc/A4FX-NQWX.
- 14“The Press and Publications Law, as amended, No. 32 of 2012,” Jordanian Media Monitor, August 2013, https://perma.cc/A4FX-NQWX.
- 15“Jordan: End Trials of Persecutors Undermining Regime,” Human Rights Watch, October 29, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/10/29/jordan-end-trials-protesters-underm….
- 16“Jordan: Terrorism Amendments Threaten Rights,” Human Rights Watch, May, 17, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/17/jordan-terrorism-amendments-threate…; “Royal Endorsement of Anti-Terrorism Law,” Gerasa News, June 1, 2014, http://www.gerasanews.com/index.php?page=article&id=146993.
- 17“Anti-Terrorism law – No 18 2014 Article 3 (b),” LAWJO, 2014, https://perma.cc/276V-8GF6.
- 18“King urged to repeal draconian changes to anti-terrorism law,” Reporters Without Borders, June 16, 2014, https://rsf.org/en/news/king-urged-repeal-draconian-changes-anti-terror….
|Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||3.003 6.006|
Score Change: The score improved from 2 to 3 because no long prison sentences were handed out to online users during the reporting period, though people continued to be arrested for their online activities.
A number of individuals were arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for their online activities during the reporting period. Since September 2019, at least seven activists have been detained, mostly on charges related to social media posts that are critical of Jordanian leadership.1
In August 2020, several individuals were detained for their online activities in relation to the arrests of leading members of the Teachers’ Syndicate, which had been staging protests throughout the summer.2 On August 3, a man from the northern city of Jerash was summoned by the cybercrime unit after voicing his support of the protests on Facebook. He was detained for inciting an illegal gathering but a court ordered his release on the same day. He was once again detained by the governor and held for two nights before being released after his father signed a pledge that this son would no longer support the union or protests on social media, on pain of a 50,000 dinar ($70,500) fine.3
Individuals are still prosecuted under Article 118 of the penal code, which punishes anyone who engages in acts, writings, or speeches that disturb Jordan’s relations with a foreign state. A notable case was that of Emad Hajjaj, a Al-Araby Al-Jadeed cartoonist, after he published an online cartoon criticizing the diplomatic deal between the UAE and Israel, and mocked Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. He was arrested on August 26, 2020 and charged with “disturbing relations with a sister country” under the antiterrorism law. If found guilty, Hajjaj would have faced five years in prison. He was released on August 30 following public outcry and his case was downgraded from terrorism to libel, for which he could still face up to three years in prison under the cybercrimes law (see B8).4 Hajjaj was previously sued and subjected to harassment and death threats in 2017 over a cartoon that was considered offensive to the Greek Orthodox Church.5
The publisher of the JO24 website, journalist Basel Okour, was detained for a couple of hours after publishing a series of news stories about the teachers’ arrests, after a gag order was issued that prohibited local media from reporting on the protests (see B5).6
Members of the political opposition were detained during the reporting period. In September 2020, Badi al-Rafaiah, a senior member of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), was detained on lèse-majesté charges of “insulting the head of a foreign state” because of a six-month old Facebook post. The detention’s timing was considered suspicious, given that it preceded the November 2020 parliamentary elections, in which the IAF took part.7 Al-Rafaiah was released on bail after several days. In December 2020, one of the leaders of the Partnership and Salvation Party, Mohamad al-Majali, was prosecuted on three lèse-majesté charges including insulting a state institution and “influencing the electoral process” after he published a Facebook post presenting a legal opinion about the electoral proceedings.8
In July 2020, former MC director Mohammad Qteishat noted that “the number of cybercrime cases rose markedly during the period of the [COVID-19] lockdown.”9 On December 24, 2020, authorities arrested journalist Jamal Haddad over an editorial in Alwakaai, in which he questioned government officials’ ability to access COVID-19 vaccines before the general public.10 He was released on bail after several days in detention.11
Several activists and government critics were arrested and prosecuted for social media posts, often on charges of insulting the king, in a crackdown that began in March 2019. In October 2019, Moayyad al-Majali was detained for insulting the king through an article on a local news site and was accused the following month of insulting the queen in a Facebook post. Al-Majali, who was a Ministry of Justice employee, was held in a prison in Amman awaiting trial as of that November, while bail requests were rejected.12
According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, Abdul Kareem Shraideh, a lawyer and the head of the Amman-based Arab Organization for Human Rights, was detained by a police unit specializing in “electronic crimes” on September 2, 2019 after publishing a video on Facebook that discussed corruption and high levels of poverty in Jordan. He was charged with criticizing the king and released after two weeks pending the trial.13
Malek al-Masha’leh was arrested on January 26, 2020 after sharing videos on Facebook from political opponents based abroad. He was charged with “undermining the political system” under Article 149 of the penal code.14 Additionally, Abdullah al-Khalayeh, an activist associated with the hirak Bani Hassan coalition, was detained in October 2019 and later arrested on charges of “undermining the political regime” after posting videos criticizing the king and queen on his Facebook page.15
Meanwhile, on April 14, 2020, Selim Akash, a Bangladeshi journalist and reporter for Jago News, was arrested and accused of violating telecommunications and antiterrorism laws. After a case was filed against him by the Embassy of Bangladesh in Amman for posting news on Facebook about the conditions faced by Bangladeshi migrant workers during COVID-19 lockdowns, the Ministry of Interior issued a deportation order for Akash, with no date set for his deportation.16
In May 2020, animal rights activist Ali Sarsour was detained over his social media activity. Sarsour was charged with lèse-majesté for insulting an official entity after he claimed to share the surname of Queen Rania. In another post, Sarsour stated that he named his dog after a former health minister. He was detained for over 60 days before receiving bail.17
In April 2019, a court sentenced activist Abdullah Wreikat to one year in prison for criticizing the king in a tweet.18 In the same month, activist Sabri al-Masha’leh was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted on lèse-majesté charges for four Facebook posts published in February that allegedly insulted the king. The sentence was later reduced to one year.19
The General Pardon Law, which went into effect in February 2019, pardoned hundreds of individuals who had been convicted in 2018 of defamation, slander, and contempt under the Cybercrime Law, in addition to numerous other offenses.20
- 1“Jordan: New Arrests of Activists,” Human Rights Watch, November 28, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/28/jordan-new-arrests-activists.
- 2“Jordan: Arrests, Forced Dispersal at Teacher Protests,” Human Rights Watch, August 27, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/27/jordan-arrests-forced-dispersal-tea….
- 3“Jordan: Arrests, Forced Dispersal at Teacher Protests,” Human Rights Watch, August 27, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/27/jordan-arrests-forced-dispersal-tea….
- 4“Jordan releases cartoonist Emad Hajjaj after days of arrest for 'offending' the UAE,” The New Arab, August 30, 2020, https://english.alaraby.co.uk/news/jordan-releases-cartoonist-emad-hajj…; Joseph Hincks, “What the Arrest of a Prominent Jordanian Cartoonist Says About the State of Satire in the Arab World,” Time Magazine, September 11, 2020, https://time.com/5887018/arrest-jordian-cartoonist-freedom-middle-east/.
- 5Joseph Hincks, “What the Arrest of a Prominent Jordanian Cartoonist Says About the State of Satire in the Arab World,” TIME Magazine, September 11, 2020, https://time.com/5887018/arrest-jordian-cartoonist-freedom-middle-east/.
- 6“The crisis of the Teachers Syndicate in Jordan ignites social networks after banning publication,” Al Quds Al Arabi, August 1, 2020, https://www.alquds.co.uk/%D8%A3%D8%B2%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%86%D9%82%D8%A7%D8….
- 7Raya Sharbain, “COVID-19 and shrinking freedom limits in Jordan,” Global Voices, January 6, 2021, https://globalvoices.org/2021/01/06/covid-19-and-shrinking-freedom-limi….
- 8Lawyer Mohamad A Almajali, Facebook Post [in Arabic], posted on December 28, 2020, https://m.facebook.com/lawyer.a.almajali/posts/4778549525519539.
- 9Quote from Mohammad Qteishat, former director of the Jordan Media Commission in a webinar organized by the Jordan Media Institute on July 5, 2020, https://www.jmi.edu.jo/sites/default/files/Journalism%20Post-COVID19%20….
- 10“Jordan: Publisher Jamal Haddad arrested for questioning pandemic response,” Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), December 28, 2020, https://ifex.org/jordan-publisher-jamal-haddad-arrested-for-questioning….
- 11“Journalist Jamal Haddad released on bail,” Roya News, December 29, 2020, https://en.royanews.tv/news/24485/2020-12-29.
- 12“Jordan: New Arrests of Activists,” Human Rights Watch, November 28, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/28/jordan-new-arrests-activists.
- 13“Jordan: New Arrests of Activists,” Human Rights Watch, November 28, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/28/jordan-new-arrests-activists.
- 14Ghada Al-Shaikh, “We were kidnapped not arrested: The circumstances of Malek Al-Mashagbeh shed light on the Jordanian prisoners of conscience,” Raseef22, March 4, 2020, https://raseef22.net/article/1077427-%d8%a5%d8%ad%d9%86%d8%a7-%d8%ae%d8….
- 15“Jordan: New Arrests of Activists,” Human Rights Watch, November 28, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/28/jordan-new-arrests-activists.
- 16“Kabir Hossain (Selim Akash),” Committee to Protect Journalists, Accessed September 2021, https://cpj.org/data/people/kabir-hossain-selim-akash/.
- 17Raya Sharbain, “COVID-19 and shrinking freedom limits in Jordan,” Global Voices, January 6, 2021, https://globalvoices.org/2021/01/06/covid-19-and-shrinking-freedom-limi….
- 18“Jordan: Crackdown on Political Activists,” Human Rights Watch, June 4, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/04/jordan-crackdown-political-activists.
- 19“Jordan: Crackdown on Political Activists,” Human Rights Watch, June 4, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/04/jordan-crackdown-political-activists; Anwar Ziadat, “الحكم بسجن ناشط أردني بتهمة "إطالة اللسان" على الملك [A Jordanian activist was jailed for lèse-majesté against the king],” Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, April 30, 2019, https://www.alaraby.co.uk/الحكم-بسجن-ناشط-أردني-بتهمة-%22إطالة-اللسان%2….
- 20“Hundreds of detainees released as pardon goes into effect,” The Jordan Times, February 5, 2019, http://jordantimes.com/news/local/hundreds-detainees-released-pardon-go….
|Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption?||2.002 4.004|
In 2021, there were multiple reports of restrictions on virtual private networks (VPNs), as several circumvention tools were reported blocked by service providers (see B1).
Cybercafé customers must supply personal identification information before they use the internet (see C6).
SIM card registration is mandatory for all mobile phone users.1 In 2018, the TRC announced that a biometric system for mobile and internet SIM card registration would be established, requiring users to submit their fingerprints.2
- 1“The Official Gazette of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” Prime Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, November 17, 2013, http://www.pm.gov.jo/newspaperSubjects/5253/5253.html; https://privacyinternational.org/state-privacy/1004/state-privacy-jordan.
- 2Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, “TRC Tender No.2/2018 for the Procurement of SIM Card Biometeric Registration and Verification System,” November 3, 2018, https://trc.gov.jo/EchoBusv3.0/SystemAssets/PDF/AR/Tenders/tender22018-….
|Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy?||3.003 6.006|
State surveillance in Jordan threatens users’ right to privacy. Many Jordanians reportedly have a long-standing belief that “someone is listening in” on their phone calls. This attitude has carried over to the internet, where it is believed that security services closely monitor online comments, cataloging them by date, internet protocol (IP) address, and location.1
Article 18 of the constitution protects the right to privacy, but allows for surveillance “by a judicial order in accordance with the provisions of the law.” The antiterrorism law permits the prosecutor general to order surveillance upon receiving “reliable information” that “a person or group of persons is connected to any terrorist activity.”2
Under Article 18 of the 2011 constitutional amendments (see C1), judicial approval was added as a precondition for censorship or confiscation of private communications.3
Months before the alleged coup attempt of April 2021, Jordanian authorities were in negotiations with the Israeli firm NSO Group to obtain spyware technology. According to reports, the Jordanian intelligence service had been monitoring Prince Hamzah’s communications for months.4 It is unclear if the authorities purchased spyware during these talks, though Jordan is suspected to have acquired spyware from the NSO Group in the past.5 In a 2018 Citizen Lab report, Jordan is listed as one of 45 countries impacted by Pegasus, software developed by the NSO Group. Pegasus is known to be used by governments to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, and the opposition.6 A Saudi operator of Pegasus known as KINGDOM reportedly surveilled targets within Jordan and 11 other countries.7
New regulations published in 2018 allow authorities to monitor users of ride-sharing apps, such as Uber, by obtaining direct access to their personal and geographical data (see C6). In 2018, the legality of the surveillance of phone calls became the subject of public debate for the first time. The discussion was triggered by reports about a security officer who inappropriately spied on private phone conversations.8
In August 2020, the government mandated the use of the COVID-19 contact-tracing app Aman, which has access to the geolocation data of its users. Concerns have been raised regarding the privacy implications for users.9 Specifically, the app lacks transparency and was not independently audited. Additionally, the data collected is not managed by an official entity that can be held accountable in the case of any privacy infringement.10 According to the Jordan Open Source Association, the information security and privacy guarantees were insufficient and unsatisfactory.11 As of April 2021, the app was no longer mandatory.12
- 1“Digital Privacy in Jordan: Perceptions and Implications among Human Rights Actors,” Information and Research Center at King Hussein Foundation & 7iber, 2015, http://haqqi.info/check_1.php?t=research_paper&f=HRIDRR0328_DigitalPriv….
- 2“State of Privacy Jordan,” Privacy International, January 26, 2019, https://privacyinternational.org/state-privacy/1004/state-privacy-jordan.
- 3“Constitution of Jordan,” Constitute Project, January 1, 1952, https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Jordan_2011.pdf.
- 4Barak Ravid, “Scoop: Israeli cyber firm NSO negotiates with Jordanian intelligence,” Axios, April 21, 2021, https://www.axios.com/israeli-cyber-firm-nso-negotiates-with-jordan-dfb….
- 5“Jordan in talks with Israeli spyware firm: report,” The New Arab, April 22, 2021, https://english.alaraby.co.uk/news/jordan-talks-israeli-spyware-firm-re….
- 6Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, Sarah McKune, Bahr Abdul Razzak, and Ron Deibert, “Hide and Seek: Tracking NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware to Operations in 45 Countries,” Citizen Lab, September 18, 2018, https://citizenlab.ca/2018/09/hide-and-seek-tracking-nso-groups-pegasus….
- 7Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, Adam Senft, Bahr Abdul Razzak, and Ron Deibert, “The Kingdom Came to Canada: How Saudi-Linked Digital Espionage Reached Canadian Soil,” Citizen Lab, October 1, 2018, https://citizenlab.ca/2018/10/the-kingdom-came-to-canada-how-saudi-link….
- 8“بعد الفتنة العشائرية.. مطالب بمحاكمة مسؤولين تجسسوا على اتصالات الأردنيين [After the tribal strife-Demands to prosecute officials who spied on telecommunications of Jordanians],” Arabian Business, May 15, 2018, https://arabic.arabianbusiness.com/content/339872.
- 9Tareq Dilwani, “Jordanians are concerned about the Coronavirus patient’s tracking app Aman,” Independent Arabia, September 8, 2020, https://www.independentarabia.com/node/149841/%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%….
- 10“Privacy and COVID Applications: Additional Guarantees Are Required,” Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA), May 30, 2020, https://www.josa.ngo/blog/46/privacy-and-covid-applications-additional-….
- 11Qusai Suwan, “Contact Tracing Apps are Not an Effective Tool in the Face of a Pandemic,” Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA), June 4, 2020, https://www.josa.ngo/blog/47/contact-tracing-apps-are-not-an-effective-….
- 12“Aman app for COVID-19 detection no longer mandatory: PM,” Roya News, April 22, 2021, https://en.royanews.tv/news/27292/2021-04-22.
|Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy?||2.002 6.006|
Service providers and technology companies are required by law to assist the government in monitoring user communications. The Telecommunications Law requires that telecommunications providers take appropriate measures to enable the retention of user communications upon judicial or administrative order.1
Jordan lacks a privacy law. In May 2021, the MoDEE issued a draft data protection law that aims to regulate how personal data is collected, used, and published. However, the latest draft had not been introduced to the parliament.2 A previous draft failed to ensure the independence of the proposed Data Protection Authority (DPA) which would be comprised of members of the government and the security forces, among others.3
During the COVID-19 national vaccination program, the personal data of vaccinated people were shared to telecommunications companies without their consent. The data of vaccine recipients, including their names, phone numbers, and vaccination dates, were reportedly used to promote telecommunications services via short-message service (SMS) texts according to the Jordanian Open Source Association’s April 2020 statement.4
In May 2018, the Ministry of Transportation published new instructions for licensing ride-hailing apps, such as Uber and Careem, which allow the ministry, as well as judicial and security bodies, access to the companies’ servers and databases without a court order.5 With the data from the companies, the government can track the movements and activities of users.
Since 2010, cybercafés have been obliged to install security cameras to monitor customers. Café owners are required to retain the browsing histories of users for at least six months.8 Authorities claim that these restrictions are necessary for security reasons. Although enforcement is somewhat lax, the once-thriving cybercafé business is now in decline due to the restrictions, as well as increased access to personal internet connections. Cybercafés are required by law “to take all procedures and arrangements” to ensure that customers are not accessing terrorist-related material, though there is little guidance on what actions would be legally permissible. Furthermore, clauses within mobile phone contracts give Jordanian companies the right to terminate service should customers use their phones in any way that is “threatening to public morals or national security.”9
- 1“State of Privacy Jordan,” Privacy International, January 26, 2019, https://privacyinternational.org/state-privacy/1004/state-privacy-jordan.
- 2Ibrahim Mubaidein, “ديوان التشريع والرأي يعرض مسودة “المعلومات الوطني” للاستشارة [The Legislation and Opinion Bureau presents the draft “National Information System” for consultation], Alghad], May 5, 2021, https://alghad.com/%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8….
- 3Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, “Data Protection Law of 2019 (Draft) [in Arabic],” 2019, https://advox.globalvoices.org/2019/12/30/data-protection-policy-void-t….
- 4“JOSA Urges the Immediate Halt of Personal Data Sharing of Vaccinated People with Telcos,” Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA), April 20, 2021, https://www.josa.ngo/blog/80/josa-urges-the-immediate-halt-of-personal-….
- 5“Amendments on the regulations of transport applications allows mass surveillance of passengers,” Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA), June 28, 2018, http://opinions.jordanopensource.org/post/208; “State of Privacy Jordan,” Privacy International, January 26, 2019, https://privacyinternational.org/state-privacy/1004/state-privacy-jordan.
- 6“Violated Privacy: Internet Companies’ handling of customers’ personal information,” ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies and Access Now, November 22, 2019, https://www.accessnow.org/cms/assets/uploads/2019/11/privacy-study-on-J….
- 7Raya Sharbain, “Data protection policy void threatens privacy rights of citizens and refugees in Jordan,” Global Voices Advox, December 30, 2019, https://advox.globalvoices.org/2019/12/30/data-protection-policy-void-t….
- 8“Cyber crime law attacks free expression; Internet cafés monitored,” International Freedom of Expression Exchange, August 18, 2010, https://www.i-policy.org/2010/08/cyber-crime-law-attacks-free-expressio…; “الداخلية تلزم مقاهي الانترنت بتركيب كاميرات مراقبة والاحتفاظ ببيانات مرتاديها لشهور [The Ministry of Interior requires Internet cafes to install surveillance cameras and keep users' data for months],” Saraya News, June 2, 2010, http://www.sarayanews.com/object-article/view/id/23211.
- 9“Declining Freedom, Restrictions on the Internet and a Financial Crisis,” Eye on Media, December 25, 2013, https://eyeonmediajo.net/episodes/%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85-2013-%….
|Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities?||3.003 5.005|
Journalists and other internet users continued to face harassment in retaliation for their online activities during the reporting period.
On August 4, 2020, online journalist Khaleel Qandeel was stopped by a plainclothes police officer while covering a Teachers’ Syndicate protest in Russeifa. After being questioned over his photography, Qandeel, who works for the online edition of the Al-Sabeel newspaper, was accused of taking unauthorized photos of police officers, which is illegal. Qandeel deleted the photos from his mobile phone, but it was later confiscated by the police officer who brought him to a police station. In the station, Qandeel was asked to show to the officer his social media accounts, but he refused to show his Facebook account and WhatsApp messages to the officer. Qandeel was later charged with participating in an unlawful gathering, impersonating a journalist, and not adhering to social distancing rules under Defense Order No. 11. A court found him innocent of the first charge and not guilty of the others.1
According to the State of Media Freedom Index published by the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists in 2020, at least 22 journalists and media personnel working for online outlets faced some violation during their coverage of the November 2020 parliamentary elections. In 11 cases, photographing or shooting videos of the voting process were not allowed by the head of the polling station or by electoral authority representatives. In one case, Ayman Abu Tinah, a journalist with Jawharat Arab News, was asked to delete content by police officers in Madaba. In addition, Ayman Fdailat from Al Jazeera Net and Ghaith Tall from Sawaleif both reported being intimidated when covering the vote-counting process, by police officers in Amman in the first case and by election officers in Irbid in the latter.2
During the COVID-19 lockdown, photographer Muhammad Maghaida from Al Ghad was forbidden to livestream the arrival of Jordanian students stranded abroad in May 2021; Maghaida was beaten and mistreated by security guards and was forcibly expelled from the airport.3
- 1“The State of Media Freedom Index in Jordan 2020,” Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, Accessed June 2021, https://rev2.cdfj.org/media-freedom-index/%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%8….
- 2“The State of Media Freedom Index in Jordan 2020,” Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, Accessed June 2021, https://rev2.cdfj.org/media-freedom-index/%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%8….
- 3“ حالة حرية اإلعالم في األردن في ظل جائحة كورونا [The State of Media Freedom in Jordan under the Corona(virus) Pandemic],” Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, June 29, 2020, https://cdfj.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Media-Freedom-Status-in-Jor….
|Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack?||1.001 3.003|
Cyberattacks against politicians’ online accounts and news sites have been reported in recent years.1
In September 2020, several public figures, including former ministers, public officials, and journalists, were victims of a series of WhatsApp phishing attacks. The accounts of former Petra news agency director Ramadan al-Rawashdeh, former minister Muhammad Obeidat, and Investment Commission head Khaled al-Wazni were all compromised. The Public Security Directorate reported it was able to recover some of the accounts.2
The hacking of politicians’ social media accounts is not uncommon. For example, the Facebook profile of the former Islamist parliamentarian Saleh al-Armouti, was hacked in July 20193 and again in October 2020.4 The Facebook profile of Naser Nawasreh, the deputy head of the Teachers' Syndicate, was hacked in October 2019.5 The identities of these hackers are unknown.
In November 2018, former lower-house speaker Atef Tarawneh confirmed that his Facebook profile had been hacked.6 The Facebook account of Tarek Khoury, then a parliamentarian and the former president of the Al-Wehdat SC football club, was hacked in March 2019. The perpetrator was reportedly a supporter of a rival club.7 In a more recent case, the Facebook page of the Jordan Football Association was hacked in May 2021.8
Official institutions are also targets of cyberattacks. For instance, the website of the Amman Chamber of Commerce was hacked in March 2021, though its database, which contains a directory of Jordanian firms, was left intact.9 Previously, in July 2019, the official website of the Constitutional Court was compromised by an “international hacker.” A picture with phrases insulting the Jordanian state and security forces was put in place of its home page.10
Although Jordan passed a cybersecurity law in 2019, no tangible impact was felt due to the delay in implementation.11 The law calls for the establishment of the National Center for Cybersecurity (NCC) to enforce its provisions and protect the national infrastructure from cyberthreats.12 A NCC head was named January 2021 via royal decree.13
- 1“تعرض موقع “المملكة اليوم” لمحاولات قرصنة عالية الاحترافية [The site "Kingdom Today" was subjected to highly professional piracy attempts],” HKJ Today (Al-Mamlaka Al-Yawm), October 18, 2018, https://hkjtoday.com/2018/10/135304.
- 2“قراصنة يخترقون حسابات واتس آب لوزير سابق ومسؤولين وإعلامي، والأمن العام يحقق ويستعيد بعضها [Hackers hack the WhatsApp accounts of a former minister, officials and media, and the Public Security Directorate is investigating and recovering some of them],” JfraNews, September 10, 2020, https://jfranews.com.jo/article/281426.
- 3“اختراق صفحة النائب العرموطي [Hacking of MP Armouti’s Page],” Jo24, July 18, 2019, https://jo24.net/article/326366.
- 4“قرصنة صفحة النائب الاسبق صالح العرموطي [Hacking of the Page of Former MP Saleh Al-Armouti],” Saraya News, October 10, 2020, https://www.sarayanews.com/article/649902.
- 5“اختراق حساب نائب نقيب المعلمين ناصر النواصرة.. والنقابة تحذر [Account of the deputy head of the Teachers’ Syndicate, Nasser Al-Nawasrah, Hacked],” Al-Ghad, October 11, 2019, https://alghad.com/قالت-نقابة-المعلمين-من-خلال-منشور-لها-ع/.
- 6“اختراق صفحة رئيس مجلس النواب عاطف الطراونة على الفيسبوك [The Facebook page of the President of the House of Representatives Atif Tarawneh Hacked],” Roya News, November 11, 2018, https://royanews.tv/news/168384.
- 7“فيصلاوي يخترق حساب طارق خوري [A Faisaly fan hack the account of Tarek Khoury],” Khaberni, March 15, 2019, https://www.khaberni.com/news/فيصلاوي-يخترق-حساب-طارق-خوري-274098.
- 8“Jordan Football Association Facebook page has been hacked,” Ammom News, May 6, 2021, https://en.ammonnews.net/article/49254.
- 9“تجارة عمان تنفي اختراق قاعدة بياناتها: قرصنة الموقع الالكتروني [Amman Chamber of Commerce denies hacking its database: website hacked],” AmmonNews, March 12, 2021, https://www.ammonnews.net/article/599031.
- 10“اختراق الموقع الرسمي للمحكمة الدستورية [Official Website of the Constitutional Court Hacked],” Ammon News, July 29, 2019, https://www.ammonnews.net/article/474110اختراق صفحة النائب العرموطي .
- 11“MPs pass 2019 cyber security law,” The Jordan Times, July 30, 2019, https://jordantimes.com/news/local/mps-pass-2019-cyber-security-law.
- 12Sevan Araz, “Jordan adopts sweeping cybersecurity legislation,” Middle East Institute, January 30, 2020, https://www.mei.edu/publications/jordan-adopts-sweeping-cybersecurity-l….
- 13“ارادة ملكية بتعيين أحمد ملحم رئيسا للوطني للأمن السيبراني [Royal Decree to Appoint Ahmad Melhem as the head of the National Cyber Security],” AmmonNews, January 17, 2021, https://www.ammonnews.net/article/588564.
See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.See More
Global Freedom Score33 100 not free
Internet Freedom Score47 100 partly free
Freedom in the World StatusNot Free