Jordan Weighs Implementation of New Cyber Crime Laws

(AI) – Proposed changes to a national cybercrimes law will deal a devastating blow to freedom of expression in Jordan, Amnesty International has warned, ahead of a review of the country’s human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva tomorrow. The amendments include criminalizing hate speech using an overly broad definition of the offence and introducing tougher penalties, including lengthier prison terms for online crimes. A vote to pass these changes can be scheduled at any time.

The proposed changes to Jordan’s already flawed cybercrimes law are extremely worrying. Instead of taking steps to protect people’s rights online the authorities appear to be moving backwards, introducing changes that would further suppress freedom of expression,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director. “The Jordanian authorities should be working to eliminate all repressive elements from the current cybercrimes law to bring it in line with international law, not expanding them to further restrict people’s online activities.

Amendments to Jordan’s 2015 cybercrimes law were proposed by the government in 2017.  In September 2018, the parliament referred the amendments to the parliamentary legal committee for discussion before a vote is scheduled. The vote could take place in parliament anytime in the next weeks and the government can also decide to withdraw the proposed amendments.

One of the proposed amendments is the addition of hate speech as a criminal offence punishable with a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to 10,000 JD ($14,094). However, the draft bill includes a vague definition of hate speech as “any statement or act that would incite discord, religious, sectarian, racial or ethnic strife or discrimination between individuals or groups.” Such a broad definition could easily include things that are protected by the right to freedom of expression, such as the right to make comments online that might be considered highly offensive but that do not amount to hate speech.

The draft cybercrimes bill also proposes criminalizing distribution of articles that amount to slander. This would mean that people could be imprisoned simply for sharing an article that is alleged to include slander on social media.

Last week King Abdullah wrote an article in the Jordan Times emphasizing the need for new laws to “combat rumours and misinformation, counter hate speech,” appearing to signal his support for the proposed amendments. The King also warned: “Anyone who offends a Jordanian — whether from my bigger Jordanian family or my immediate family — offends me personally.” Article 195 of the Jordanian Penal Code punishes “insulting the king” with up to three years imprisonment.

Jordan’s authorities have an appalling track record when it comes to silencing critics both on and offline. The Jordanian authorities must repeal all laws that criminalize the exercise of the right to freedom of expression,” said Heba Morayef. The UN Human Rights Council report on Jordan ahead of its universal periodic review on 8 November 2018 noted that freedom of expression in Jordan had suffered a severe regression in recent months.


International human rights standards put a high value on uninhibited expression in the context of “public debate concerning public figures in the political domain and public institutions.” The UN Human Rights Committee has been clear that the “mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties.Amnesty International opposes laws prohibiting insult or disrespect of heads of state or public figures, as well as laws criminalizing defamation, whether of public figures or private individuals, which should be treated as a matter for civil litigation.

Proposed Amendments to 2010 Cyber Laws:

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This article was originally published by Amnesty International on November 7th 2018. It was republished, with permission, under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License, in accordance with the Terms & Conditions of Amnesty International | Formatting Edits, pdf and Tweets added/embedded by Rogue Media Labs

Russia Levies Heavy Fines On Independent News Media & Human Rights Organizations

(AI) – A wave of unfair, excessive and suffocating fines levied on independent Russian media, NGOs and human rights defenders represent a new assault on human rights in Russia, Amnesty International said today.

Once again the Russian authorities are targeting independent organizations and individuals – but this time their weapon is suffocating fines. Using a host of draconian laws, the authorities are levying one extortionate fine after another in what appears to be a coordinated attack to drive critical organizations out of existence altogether,” said Natalia Zviagina, Director of Amnesty International’s Office in Moscow.

The latest victim of this targeted attack is The New Times magazine, one of the leading critical media outlets in Russia. On 26 October, The New Times was fined 22,250,000 rubles (US$ 348,000) for “failure by an editor, a broadcaster or a publisher of a medium to provide information on receiving funds.” It’s the biggest fine so far imposed on media in Russia. The magazine was forced to discontinue its print edition in 2017 after its reputation for being disloyal to the regime meant it was abandoned by advertisers. Now faced with this heavy fine, The New Times is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Also on 26 October, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation – a prominent Russian group advocating for reforming drug policies – was fined 800,000 rubles (US$ 12,500) for distributing “propaganda of narcotic substances.” The article in question appeared in a bulletin that the foundation publishes on accessing health services for people who use drugs. “The same financial whip the authorities are using against their critics in the media, is simultaneously being used against those expressing dissident opinions on a range of policy issues,” said Natalia Zviagina.

Only a few days earlier, a court imposed an unusually heavy fine of 1,000,000 rubles (US$ 15,600) on Transparency International Russia after it lost a defamation case launched by a close associate of Vladimir Putin. At the same time, Russian courts have largely failed to protect human rights defenders from attacks on their reputation by state-controlled mainstream media.

Earlier in this month, Sergei Zykov, a human rights defender from Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, and Aleksandr Kunilovsky, an opposition activist from Tyumen, in northern Siberia, were fined 300,000 rubles (US$ 4,700) and 290,000 rubles (US$ 4,500), respectively, for violations of Russia’s unduly restrictive rules governing public assemblies. “We call on the Russian authorities to immediately halt this vicious assault on civil society organizations and stop using the repressive legislation to impose extortionate penalties,” said Natalia Zviagina.


The New Times, Andrey Rylkov Foundation and Transparency International Russia have faced increased pressure from the Russian authorities, mainly due to the fact that all three organizations are recipients of foreign funding.

Article 13.15.1 of the Administrative Offences Code used against The New Times was introduced in 2015 as part of a campaign against independent media who have been forced to rely on foreign funding due to the lack of sufficient national resources accessible to them.

The Andrey Rylkov Foundation was listed as a “foreign agent” by the Ministry of Justice in 2016. Since then, the group has faced a drastic reduction in its budget due to its inability to generate sufficient funding from national sources.

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This article was originally published by Amnesty International on October 29th 2018. It was republished, with permission, under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License, in accordance with the Terms & Conditions of Amnesty International | Formatting Edits and Tweets added by Rogue Media Labs

House Introduces Bill To Block All US Assistance To Saudi Arabia

In direct response/retaliation for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a bi-partisan teams of 21 members of the US House of Representatives has introduced a new bill calling for the complete ban of military aid and weapons to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the immediate future. However, the move should be thought of as nothing more than a symbolic effort, and I say this because United States Congress has already attempted to block or ban arm deals/transfers to Saudi Arabia multiple times over the course of the last several years, and every single one of these measures has failed or been voted down. Therefore, one has no other reason than to believe this latest Bill will also fall straight on its face.

To date, it is estimated that the United States military industrial complex has sold Saudi Forces 188.5 Billion dollars worth of arms and munitions over the course of the last 10 years. Meanwhile, led by Saudi forces, the United Nations has proclaimed the situation/Civil War in Yemen to be the single greatest human rights disaster/tragedy on planet Earth at the present moment in time. To date an estimated +50,000 people have died as a result of the conflict in Yemen, another 50,000 have died of famine/food shortages, while more than 3 million Yemeni citizens have become displaced by the violence. Moreover, using these same US manufactured arms and munitions, the United Nations claims that Saudi led forces are responsible for greater than 2/3’s of the combined death total in Yemen.

Official House Bill Introduced by Jim McGovern:

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