Jordan’s cyber-crime law: A double-edged sword

Sunday 13/11/2016
Jordanian journalists calling for their colleague’s release

AMMAN - Although authorities consider Jordan’s in­formation systems and cyber-crime law neces­sary, many see it as a threat to freedom of expression, a setback for media freedom and a curb on personal liberties.
The Centre for Defending the Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ), early this year, began a campaign to abolish Article 11 of the Elec­tronic Crimes Law under the title #Talking_is_not_a_crime.
Article 11 allows the detention and suspension of journalists and social media activists because of what they write.
The CDFJ said ten journalists and social media activists have been detained since the Law Inter­pretation Bureau in 2015 said libel on news websites and social net­working sites were covered by the Electronic Crimes Law.
“Any journalist who is claimed to violate laws of press should be only prosecuted according to the Press and Publication Law and we are totally against the detention and/or imprisonment of journal­ists because of expression and publishing cases,” CDFJ President Nidal Mansour said.
The centre released a report ti­tled Behind Bars about the Jorda­nian journalists detained in 2015 under the Anti-Terrorism Law and the Electronic Crimes Law.
In a survey, 88.4% of 251 jour­nalists polled said media freedom in the kingdom suffered a setback last year compared to 2014 and 58.2% said laws were a constraint on media freedom in Jordan.
As of June, there was 183 li­censed news websites registered, the Press and Publications Depart­ment said.
The number of internet users in the kingdom reached 5.7 million by June 2015, 73.6% of the popula­tion, compared to 127,300 in 2000. The Telecommunication Regula­tory Commission said there are 11.5 million active mobile subscrip­tions, 10.6 million of them prepaid, as of March 2015.
“Internet is becoming a neces­sity and not a luxury. Today many people are using their mobiles and laptops on the road and interact with each other through the social networks and this is healthy and they can share thoughts and ideas immediately and not like before,” said Ziad Moamani, a journalist in Jordan.
“Of course there should be lim­its. Why do you want to use the best of the technology in hurting others? This should be dealt with as a slander or a crime… News with all its shapes should be positively spread and not negatively.”
Cyber-crime has increased in Jordan with people falling victims to hackers or financial scams. The electronic crimes unit of Jordan’s criminal investigations depart­ment said it handled 680 electron­ic threat and blackmailing crimes in 2015, an increase from 536 in 2014.
“We receive many e-mails citing that we have won millions but it is all spam and the law should take action. Many victims have fallen for hacks and their life was ru­ined,” internet user Thaer Kandah, 46, said.
A 38-year-old woman chatted with a man on Facebook for many months, exchanging photos with him. He eventually said he wanted marry her but told a lack of money kept him from doing so.
“I believed him and wanted to start a family together. I sent him my photos and sent him money but he didn’t come as he promised to see my family,” she said, speak­ing on condition of anonymity.
When she stopped giving him money, he tried to blackmail her, she said.
“I was afraid of any possible scandal so I changed my mobile number and closed my Facebook account,” the woman said.
Legal specialist Lara Karrat said the new cyber-crimes law is a ne­cessity because electronic commu­nications and information systems have become an essential part of people’s lives.
“I believe electronic crimes could be more damaging than tra­ditional ones since in most cases, they violate the person’s privacy or defames his image and reputation in the community, which could be devastating,” she said.