Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Monday urged Jordan’s King Abdullah II to reform the country’s “repressive” anti-terrorism law, saying recent amendments to the legislation are “disturbing.”
The amendments, approved in April, criminalise “the use of information technology, the Internet or any means of publication or media, or the creation of a website, to facilitate terrorist acts or back groups that promote, support or fund terrorism.”
RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in his letter to the king on Monday that the changes were phrased in a “general manner that leaves the judicial authorities a great deal of discretionary power, with a resulting danger of arbitrary decisions”.
He warned some articles could hinder the work of “news providers” and result in their arrest or imprisonment.
“There is a danger that the Jordanian authorities will use the fight against terrorism to gag civil society organisations and news media,” Deloire said.
“The amendments… constitute a disturbing reinforcement of the already repressive legislative arsenal,” the letter said.
Jordan passed its first anti-terrorism law in 2006, the year after three bombings targeting hotels in the capital killed 60 people.
MPs, opposition Islamists, journalists and rights activists have criticised the amendments, saying they restrict freedoms.
The changes also outlaw “acts that would expose Jordan or Jordanians to the danger of acts of aggression, or harm the kingdom’s relations with another country.”
Last week, Jordanian military prosecutors accused 14 Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi journalists of terrorism after closing the Amman-based Al-Abasiya television channel where they worked.
The station was critical of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
They were charged with “using the Internet to carry out acts that would expose Jordanians to acts of aggression”,
The journalists face up to five years in prison if convicted of the charges, filed under the kingdom’s anti-terrorism laws, and RSF has demanded their immediate release.
Jordan ranked 141st and Iraq 153rd on the 2014 RSF Press Freedom Index.
“We think it is essential that these provisions should be rendered more specific,” Deloire added.
Failing that, Deloire said “they should be repealed altogether and a debate on the anti-terrorism law should be resumed in the light of these observations.”