Jordan's King Abdullah Declares War on Internet by Khaled Abu Toameh

September 4, 2012
King Abdullah needs to know that in light of the calls for freedom and democracy, there is no room for such harsh measures against freedom of the media in the Arab world.

Is Jordan's King Abdullah trying to hide something from his people and the rest of the world?

Last week, the king managed to alienate journalists, bloggers and human rights and political activists by allowing his government to amend a law so it could impose severe restrictions on freedom of expression, including the blocking of websites.

The king's move will boomerang, encouraging his opponents to step up their efforts to destabilize the kingdom.

The drive to impose restrictions on the media and on freedom of speech has been condemned by many Jordanians as an attempt to silence the opposition and calls for reform and accountability.

The Jordanian monarch has long been witnessing a quiet Arab Spring that could one day erupt into violence. So far, however, King Abdullah has been careful not to push his opponents too much against the wall -- perhaps the reason anti-government protests in Jordan have so far not deteriorated into violence.

In a bid to appease the opposition, King Abdullah has called for parliamentary elections before the end of the year.

But the planned elections may be called off in the wake of a decision by Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood organization to boycott the vote. The king has now asked Hamas to act as a mediator between his government and the Muslim Brotherhood to end the boycott.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood are protesting against what its leaders call a scheme by King Abdullah to limit their representation in the Parliament. The Palestinians living in Jordan also fear that King Abdullah is trying to keep them out of the Parliament.

The Islamists and their political allies in Jordan fear that the Jordanian authorities will forge the results of the elections, as has been the case in the past.

The king's plan to hold new elections appears to be crumbling: only a few Jordanians have heeded government calls to register as voters.

King Abdullah now appears to be facing an even bigger challenge as his government moves to crack down on the media and Internet owners.

A group of Jordanian Internet users, known as 7oryanet (Freedom for the Internet) has initiated a campaign calling on local online news portals and websites to hold a one-day blackout on August 29 in protest against an amendment to the Press and Publications Law.

The proposed amendment requires the registration and licensing of online news media, social networks, review sites, media sharing services and blogs.

It also calls for significant fines and penalties against online media owners who break the law. The owners of websites will also be held responsible for the content of comments published by readers on their sites.

Even Jordan's former Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Minister Marwan Juma added his voice to the protests against the new legislation.

In a letter to the Jordanian government, Juma wrote: "I have an obligation to speak up. Not because I ran the first company that brought email to Jordan, or was one of the founders of Jordan's REACH initiative (Jordan's first national information technology strategy), and not because I recently served as Minister of ICT, but because what is taking place in our sector, namely the attempt to censor the Internet, is simply wrong if not bone-headed."

Unless King Abdullah backtracks, he will be providing even more ammunition to his enemies at home and abroad. He needs to know that in light of increased calls for reform and democracy, there is no room for such harsh measures against freedom of media in the Arab world.

King Hussain, his father was a much better ruler

He was more friendly to Israel

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