Geneva - Jordanian authorities must lift all restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion in the country, as well as repeal all legal provisions that could be used to undermine liberties, Euro-Med Monitor said in a policy paper.
Jordan’s level of freedom of expression fluctuates between allowing limited criticism of public authorities and directly or indirectly restricting entities and individuals, particularly the media, activists, unionists, and political opponents. The abuse of the Crime Prevention Law to implement administrative detention is one of the most prominent violations that journalists and opinion makers in Jordan face as a result of exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of opinion, expression, publication, and criticism.
Additional violations include the use of broadly worded provisions in the Cybercrime Law to restrict opponents’ freedoms, as well as the disruption or permanent banning of certain social media platforms during protests, such as TikTok, which is still banned today. The procedures, practices, and laws that limit freedom of opinion and expression have resulted in an ongoing state of self-censorship among bloggers and opinion holders, as a large number of them refrain from publicly sharing their views on public matters for fear of being harassed or persecuted.
The paper examines recent unjustified security crackdowns on freedom of expression in the country, such as the December arrests of several political activists and the repeated administrative detention of some activists and members of the Jordanian Teachers’ Syndicate. Authorities continue to shut down the Teachers’ Syndicate, despite the issuance of several judicial decisions ordering the resumption of activities and nullifying the government’s decisions to dissolve it.
Furthermore, the paper emphasises Jordanian authorities’ widespread use of administrative detention to restrict freedom of expression and peaceful assemblies. Authorities administratively detain activists for varying periods of time, either as punishment for previous activities, or to prevent them from participating in future peaceful assemblies.
Jordanian authorities have used administrative detention before as a tool of political repression, as evidenced by the arrest of a group of activists last year ahead of the anniversary of the 24 March protest, and the arrest of dozens of teachers for their participation in protests following the dissolution of the Teachers’ Syndicate. The widespread abuse of this method makes it a persistent and unpredictable threat; Nasser al-Nawasra, former deputy head of the Teachers’ Syndicate, was arrested on his way to a hospital on 4 April.
The Crime Prevention Law gives administrative governors broad authority to detain whomever they want and, in some cases, for as long as they want. For example, administrative governors may detain a person if they suspect that the person is about to commit a crime, which is a direct violation of citizens’ right to freedom. In such cases, these administrative governors exercise judicial powers that they do not have, because the arrest of a citizen must be based on a judicial decision.
The law also violates the presumption of innocence, i.e. the fundamental principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty and should not be criminalised solely due to suspicion. Further, the law allows for the indefinite detention of individuals because it does not set a maximum time limit for detention, in contrast to Article 114 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which sets maximum time limits for detention based on the criminal acts committed.
Moreover, the Euro-Med Monitor policy paper emphasises Jordanian authorities’ restrictions on Internet freedom of expression, as individuals face significant challenges when sharing their opinions in cyberspace, particularly because the Cybercrime Law lacks clarity and is arbitrarily used to suppress activists and journalists. Authorities also limit Internet service and prohibit certain social networking services, such as live broadcasting during protests and other important events.
Authorities use Article 11 of the Cybercrime Law to unjustly prosecute journalists and activists, as it contains broadly worded provisions that contradict constitutional guarantees of freedom of opinion and expression. The article states: “Anyone who intentionally sends, resends or publishes data or information via the Internet or a website or any information system involving slander, defamation or libel against any person shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of not less than three months and a fine not less than (100) hundred dinars and not more than (2000) thousand dinars.”
Jordanian authorities must respect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and opinion, and end all procedures, policies, and laws that may limit rights guaranteed by the local constitution and the country’s relevant international obligations.