Last Updated: Friday, 26 December 2014, 13:50 GMT

Court ruling poses threat to online free expression

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 16 January 2010
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Court ruling poses threat to online free expression, 16 January 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b56c35fc.html [accessed 28 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Reporters Without Borders is concerned about a ruling by Jordan's highest appeal court, published on 13 January, that news websites and electronic media are subject to the country's press and publications law. Media and communications minister Nabil Al-Sharif told the Jordan Times that the court's decision was reached independently and should therefore be applied.

The ruling poses a real threat to online free expression in Jordan, where the traditional media usually toe the government line. With the authorities determined to rein in online news and information, there is a danger that Internet users will follow the example set by print media journalists and censor themselves out of fear of sanctions.

The court's ruling comes just days after the media and communications minister brought a defamation suit against Abdul Hadi Raji Al-Majali, the editor of the Ejjbed.com website, over a series of articles about alleged illicit enrichment by members of his family and a lack of transparency in the way his elder brother's companies hired employees.

The Ejjbed.com articles also accused the minister of not having the degrees mentioned in his curriculum vitae and one of the articles, published on 8 May, was written in Egyptian dialect in an allusion to the minister's Egyptian origin. Majali also works as a journalist for the daily Al-Rai, the country's leading pro-government newspaper.

"It is incredible that the media and communications minister is suing a journalist in a country that claims to be democratic," Majali told Reporters Without Borders. "This case is disturbing. In two weeks the Union of Journalists is going to decide whether or not to expel me and everyone knows that the union takes its orders from the government."

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