Media watchdog condemns Jordan cybercrime law after journalists detained at airport
The International Press Institute (IPI) has called on Jordanian authorities to urgently review the country's cybercrime law following the arrest of two journalists earlier this month at Amman airport.
On March 6, Jordanian journalist Taghreed Risheq, who is a manager at the NGO Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) was detained and questioned for twelve hours at the airport over a tweet she posted in January.
Two days later, Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, who runs Community Media network was detained at the airport over a 2020 article he published about a Jordanian-American investor who was imprisoned over a stolen cheque.
Both journalists were told that they had had defamation complaints made about them under Article 11 of the Jordanian cybercrime law.
The IPI, an NGO which works to support media freedom around the world, said that thousands of journalists had been detained under Article 11 since 2019, citing a report from Middle East Eye.
Many of the journalists had reported on government corruption.
The IPI said that Article 11 contained provisions prohibiting anyone from posting statements categorized as "defamatory" or "denigrating". The cybercrime law was amended in 2018 to criminalize content that can stir up "religious, sectarian, ethnic or regional sedition" or that spreads "rumours" which can cause harm.
The law has been condemned by human rights groups which say that it is a tool to censor social media and silence journalists and activists.
"The recent detentions of journalists at Amman airport are highly concerning and underscore the urgent need to revise Article 11 of Jordan’s cybercrime law, which has been used to clamp down on critical speech and which undermines the work of independent media" IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said.
Risheq and Kuttab now face charges in court and could be sentenced to at least three months in jail, as well as fines, if found guilty.
"The restriction of journalists is a bad sign for a country that seeks to reform," Kuttab told IPI. "No journalist should ever be detained or imprisoned for what they publish."
The IPI said that even though media freedom is constitutionally guaranteed, laws regulating media have been amended multiple times over the years, giving authorities the power to censor news.