Sunday, January 24, 2010

Time for a calm discussion

A frenzy arose from a recent supreme court ruling, whereby the Press and Publications Law would apply to Internet news sites and digital content in general.

This has stirred up a national discussion regarding regulation and censorship. It seems authorities want to exercise some measure of control and seek to introduce legal liability with regard to content published on the Internet, while activists don’t want any control whatsoever. Clearly, this is an unattainable position.

To begin with, this matter is not new. Back in 2007, the Legislation Bureau at the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Internet content would fall under the oversight of the Publications and Publishing Department. However, it appears that the department did not exercise its powers of supervision. And now, the issue has been re-activated.

Jordan, till now, has been a rather open Internet country. The OpenNet Initiative report (see drawing) classifies Jordan as “Selective” in Internet filtering and positively summarizes the state of Internet censorship in the country saying “Jordanians appear to enjoy essentially unfiltered access to Internet content. However, the Press and Publications Law’s broad provisions have been extended to online publications and may lead some writers to engage in self-censorship as individual writers and commentators seek to avoid heavy fines or criminal prosecution.”

A thorough discussion of electronic laws in general needs to be conducted, with the participation of all stakeholders, whereby the requirements of all parties are to be considered. A balanced solution that is acceptable and conducive to strengthening Jordan’s economic and social growth is the answer.

Otherwise, Jordan’s image as an Internet media hub in the region and a hotbed for Internet entrepreneurs will be affected.

This matter is one that faces other nations as the digital age evolves. Jordan is a country that typically adopts a moderate stance.

Through a calm and open exchange of views, authorities could enact laws that allow digital content to flourish. That could be an agreeable starting point of a discussion. But, will there be such a discussion?


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