Jordan to rethink controversial cybercrimes law

The Jordanian government said it will withdraw the cybercrime draft law, which was referred to the Lower House by the previous government. (File photo/Shutterstock)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Jordan to rethink controversial cybercrimes law

AMMAN: Jordan is to withdraw proposed amendments to a cybercrimes bill submitted to parliament that rights activists say would stifle freedom of expression, the government spokesman said on Sunday.
The bill has angered broad swathes of public opinion, including demonstrators who took to the streets in the last 10 days to protest against IMF-backed austerity measures, who say the proposed law will silence dissent in social media.
The legislation sent to parliament last September will be resubmitted only after the government has engaged with civil society representatives and experts, spokesman Jumana Ghunaimat told the state news agency Petra.
“The government will study again the draft law before redrafting it in light of existing laws,” Ghunaimat said.
Two officials said Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s move to pull the cybercrimes law was intended to defuse a crisis that could cause a repeat of the big protests last summer over tax rises that brought down his predecessor.
Activists are calling for a major protest on Thursday against austerity measures and the IMF-backed tax law passed last month by the mainly pro-government parliament.
Amnesty International last month said the proposed amendments to the cybercrimes law passed in 2015 would “deal a devastating blow to freedom of expression in Jordan.”
Rights activists say the amendments include criminalizing hate speech using too broad a definition of the offense and introducing tougher penalties such as longer prison terms for online crimes.
“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.
“Jordan’s authorities have an appalling track record when it comes to silencing critics both on and offline,” Morayef added.
With print and broadcast media loyal to the state and no major organized opposition political parties, social media has become a channel for dissent.
Officials have said there was a need for tougher laws with the Internet being used to slander politicians and incite social discord.
King Abdullah, without referring to the bill, has also supported tightening online laws, saying unfair accusations against officials had paralyzed government decision-making.


Migrants stranded at sea for three weeks face deportation

Updated 12 min 24 sec ago
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Migrants stranded at sea for three weeks face deportation

  • Vessel carrying 75 illegal refugees, including 32 children, remained stranded 25 km off Tunisia

TUNIS: Tunisia has allowed dozens of migrants, mostly from Bangladesh, to disembark after three weeks stranded in the Mediterranean, so that they can return to their home countries, the Red Crescent said on Wednesday.

An Egyptian boat rescued at least 75 migrants in Tunisian waters last month. But local authorities in the governorate of Medinine said its migrant centers were too overcrowded to let them ashore, leaving the vessel stranded 25 km off the coastal city of Zarzis.

“After they were stranded for three weeks at sea in difficult conditions, Tunisia agreed to dock the ship, and migrants accepted to return to their countries in coming days,” Red Crescent official Mongi Slim told Reuters.

After a visit by officials from Bangladesh Embassy, the migrants agreed to return home, according to Mongi Slim, a Red Crescent official.

Earlier, Red Crescent representatives welcomed to port 64 Bangladeshis, nine Egyptians, a Moroccan, a Sudanese citizen, who left Zuwara in Libya in late May.

The migrants, which include at least 32 children and unaccompanied minors, are to be transferred to a reception center in Sfax from where they are set to return home, Slim added.

Worried about creating a precedent, Tunisian authorities said they accepted the migrants as an exception and for “humanitarian” reasons.

“We thank Tunisia’s renewed commitment to life and dignity,” said Lorena Lando, the head of the International Organization for Migration in Tunisia.

She added that it is urgent to put in place a collaborative approach to helping migrants in the Mediterranean.

Neighboring Libya’s west coast is a frequent departure point for African migrants hoping to reach Europe by paying human traffickers. But their numbers have dropped after an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support the Libyan coast guard.

At least 65 migrants drowned last month when their boat capsized off Tunisia after setting out from Libya.

In the first four months of 2019, 164 people are known to have died on the route, a smaller number but a higher death rate than in previous years, with one dying for every three who reach European shores, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.