Statement Issued by the National Center for Human Rights (JNCHR) On The Press and Publication Department (PPD) Decision to Block Unlicensed Websites

Amman June 3.2013

The JNCHR followed with great concern the decision issued by the Press and Publication Department to block access to unlicensed websites by virtue of article (49) of the recently amended Press and Publications Law no. (32) for the year 2012. These amendments made to the Press and Publications Law back in September 2012 provides for the mandatory registration of websites. These changes faced backlash not only from those who work in the electronic media and the Journalists Syndicate but also from active civil society organizations.

In this context, JNCHR states that the procedure prevalent in democratic countries for licensing a website is to deposit the website name and address at a technical committee. Their principle role is only to verify the validity of the name to avoid replication without interfering in any other matters. In the event of harm; the judiciary is the competent authority to adjudicate such complaints. Also it is agreed internationally that websites that do not abide by the ethical standards for electronic media by publishing materials which might threaten the public morals or the national security or manipulate the commercial or financial transactions or hack protected sites are firmly dealt with and there are specific measures tackling these crimes. As for the Jordanian legislations; the cybercrimes are prosecuted via the Information Systems and Cybercrime Law 2010 that criminalizes publishing materials that affects the national security or public order with the aim to protect information system.

In this regard, JNCHR calls on the government to engage in a dialogue with the relevant actors and take the necessary measures to amend the Publications and Press Law to be compatible with Jordan’s democratic approach, the provisions of the constitution and its obligations under the international law and the agreed standards in this regard. Deeming, at the same time, these amendments as insignificant, on the presumption that the Judiciary is fairly and adequately adjudicating disputes that arise with the media in general and the electronic media in particular in a manner that guarantees justice to all.

JNCHR affirms that the administrative blocking of websites, which implicitly imposes restriction on the public freedoms, would have potential serious implications on the assessment of the public freedoms level in Jordan locally, regionally and internationally. Also this may have an adverse impact on Jordan’s assessment internationally regarding the interrelated and the mutually reinforcing aspects of transparency, good governance and investments encouragement.