Dear Jordanian Blogger, Don’t Change—Not yet at least!

I know the whole talk about inclusion of websites in the press and publication law can indicate some very bad scenarios, chief among them is self-censorship, fear of writing critical high-quality articles, etc. My only message to the Jordanian blogosphere is: don’t change.

There are a lot of things we don’t know yet, and unless there’s direct evidence that says that we should worry, we shouldn’t. That is not to say that we shouldn’t care about the issue, but we shouldn’t let it change our attitude towards whatever it is that we do.

First, there no clear evidence that the ruling applies only to media sites/news agencies (i.e. alghad.jo, ammonnews.net, ammannet.net, etc.) or blogs as well; so bloggers don’t need to worry from now.

Second, there is no indication of how things will work. As it has been mentioned earlier, there is a government committee trying to figure out how to apply the law to the web; requirements about identity vs. anonymity, trade unions, having an editor-in-chief, etc. most likely won’t apply to blogs. Similarly, some of the restrictions on information in news articles (who are there to portray facts), might not apply to blogs (who are there to portray opinion).

So go about your business for now and write freely; if a government spokesperson drops a bombshell, its another story. When fighting the decision, speak as honestly and freely as you always have. If you have a critical post in store, share it and educate us all. Criticize the government, and hope they’ll be open minded and strive to improve. Act as if its some sort of utopia, and if a decision or announcement tells us definitely that its not, you’ll have time to go back and self-sensor your past posts or something.

Reblogged: Websites & the Press and Publication Law @ 7iber

Earlier today, 7iber.com published an article that I had contributed regarding the inclusion of internet websites under the definition of the press and publication law.

You can view the article in its original location here. Or, alternatively, continue to read it in this same post:

Websites and the Publication Law: The Hour’s Reality and What Should have Happened Instead

Perhaps the talk of the moment in the Jordanian blogosphere is the decision of the Court of Cassation of Jordan (also known as the Supreme Court) [1] to categorize Internet websites as a type of “publication” thus extending the controversial Press and Publication Law to govern websites as well. The decision was met with fierce opposition in the Jordanian Blogosphere; the Jordanian free and alternative media was now to be under the same governing legislation that many believe brought Jordan’s traditional media to its supposed demise. Indeed, it is a common view that the Press and Publication Law restricts journalists in exploring alternative news sources, as well as voicing their opinions freely in editorials.

The Court’s ruling, however, occurred in a different light. The ruling was a result of a court case by journalist Ahmad Salameh, currently an advisor for the crown prince of Bahrain, against Samir al-Hiari and Sakher Abu `Antara, who operate Internet news websites, over a case of public defamation. [3]

(See Ammon’s article on Salameh’s case against Omar Kallab, listing Salameh’s accusations against Mr. Kallab as well as the Ammon website: http://www.ammonnews.net/article.aspx?articleNO=13047)

The ‘Press and Publication Law’ provides clear anti-defamation codes for journalists, and thus was used by Salameh to argue for his case. In that case, the writers as well as the editor-in-chief of the publication are accountable; and false information or personal attacks on individuals are prohibited. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and the verdict was appealed until reaching the Court of Cassation, which had to establish whether the basis of the case was lawful to begin with, and thus, establish whether the Press and Publication Law can be a governing document for articles on the internet.

Supporters of the ruling also view ramifications in the same light: writers on the internet are accountable to what they say, baseless attacks are prohibited, and information integrity is promoted.

While such view is well-founded, supporters are perhaps oblivious to the other ramifications of using the law as it stands to websites. For instance, the law prohibits writings offensive to religion, prophets, or other people, which might prove to hinder some of the healthy debate going on.

Continue reading “Reblogged: Websites & the Press and Publication Law @ 7iber”