Washington criticises Jordan's proposed cyber law as an erosion of free expression

US says the kingdom cannot thrive if the curbs on online content are allowed to become law

The US says a proposed law to restrict online content in Jordan could erode freedom of expression in the kingdom. PA
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The US condemned a proposed cybercrime law in Jordan on Wednesday, saying it undermines free speech. It was a rare criticism of one of Washington's biggest allies in the region.

The proposed law criminalises online content the authorities consider to be “undermining national unity”, and “inciting immorality”, as well as spreading false news and hate speech, without a clear definition of these crimes.

US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said: “This type of law, with vague definitions and concepts, could undermine Jordan's homegrown economic and political reform efforts.”

The law, which still needs to pass voting in the overwhelmingly pro-government legislature, “limits freedom of speech online and offline, and could inhibit future investment in the technology sector”, Mr Patel added.

He said Jordan, whose economy has been stagnant for more than a decade, “cannot thrive” without protecting freedom of expression and the sharing of information.

Washington has refrained from criticising Jordan's rights record despite a deepening crackdown on dissent in the past three years.

Last year, Jordan's parliament passed constitutional amendments that consolidated the power of King Abdullah, and made it more difficult for the legislature to sack governments.

The 130-member legislature has largely ceremonial power and is dominated by tribes that critics describe as the bedrock of support for the Jordanian monarchy.

In 2021, the US and Jordan signed a defence pact that enhanced the presence of US forces in the kingdom.

Updated: July 27, 2023, 12:18 PM