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Jordan to monitor online publications and websites

Jordan will monitor online publications and websites, Nabil Al-Momani, the assistant general manager of Jordan Printing and Publishing department announced today. From now on websites and electronic newspapers will fall under the Press and Publication Law. Al-Momani states that his department won’t impose prior censorship or restrictions on online free speech. It will focus on monitoring what is being published and will resort to the judiciary if needed.

There are serious concerns that the Jordanian approach to the Internet will comport with the limitations the gouvernment imposes on other media. Press Association's President Tareq Momani denounced the new restrictions imposed on the electronic journalism saying that : “the Internet is offering a margin of freedom that no other media outlet enjoys.

A recent report on internet censorship in Jordan released by the Open Net Initiative concluded that:

Jordanians appear to enjoy essentially unfiltered access to Internet content. However, the Press and Publications Law's broad provisions may lead some writers to engage in self-censorship. Although Jordan's government continues to develop initiatives to expand access to the Internet, laws restricting freedom of speech preserve an intimidating atmosphere that discourages free discourse on political and social issues.

On May 3, 2007, Ahmad Oweidi al-Abbadi, the 62-year-old former parliamentarian and leader of the Jordanian National Movement, was arrested for accusing the government of corruption in an open letter emailed to US senator Harry Reid. “The jailing of Ahmad Oweidi shows that Jordan's government hasn't shaken off its old habits of going after critics by putting them in prison,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

In May 2002, the former female member of the Jordanian Parliament and outspoken free speech and women's rights activist, Toujan al-Faisal was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for “false and exaggerated news” published on the Arab Times website. On June 26, 2002, she was given amnesty by King Abdullah II and released from prison.

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