The King of Jordan approved a cybercrime bill that will crack down on online speech deemed harmful to national unity, a bill opposition lawmakers and human rights groups have warned against.
King Abdullah II gave his approval on Saturday with the bill now slated as law and set to take effect one month after it is published in the state newspaper Al-Rai, which is expected on Sunday.
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The legislation will make certain online posts punishable with prison time and fines.
Posts that could be targeted include those seen as “promoting, instigating, aiding, or inciting immorality”, demonstrating “contempt for religion”, or “undermining national unity”.
The bill will additionally target those who publish names or pictures of police officers online and outlaws certain methods of maintaining online anonymity.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed the bill after amending it to allow judges to choose between imposing prison time and fines, rather than ordering combined penalties.
Jordan’s lower house of parliament passed it last month.
Before the parliament’s vote, 14 rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, said in a joint statement the law is “draconian”.
“Vague provisions open the door for Jordan’s executive branch to punish individuals for exercising their right to freedom of expression, forcing the judges to convict citizens in most cases,” it said.
The United States, a key ally and Jordan’s largest donor, also criticised the law.
The measure is the latest in a number of crackdowns on online speech in the kingdom, including social media blackouts. In December, it blocked the TikTok app after users shared live videos of worker protests.
Human Rights Watch said in a 2022 report authorities increasingly target protesters and journalists in a “systematic campaign to quell peaceful opposition and silence critical voices”.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies