Jordanian journalist sentenced to prison under cybercrime law

Jordan has sentenced journalist Hiba Abu Taha to one year in prison for violating the country’s cybercrime laws, the Centre for the Protection and Freedom of Journalists (CPFJ) announced on Tuesday. 

According to The New Arab’s Arabic language sister publication, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the centre has raised deep concerns about the decision to imprison her and called for the charges to be dropped and freedom of speech to be respected.

Abu Taha was sentenced to prison over an article she wrote on the kingdom’s apparent role in protecting Israel, where she focused on Jordanian forces downing Iranian missiles headed for Israel in April, multiple reports suggest.

Another article she reportedly wrote was about how Amman is involved in the war on Gaza due to their actions at land crossings, following unconfirmed reports that Jordan was allowing trucks from the Gulf to transit through its territory to Israel. 

The journalist was charged with violating Article 15 of the cybercrime law, which stipulates that anyone who “intentionally sends, transmits, or publishes data or information via information networks, that contain false news, defame, slander shall be subject to imprisonment for no less than three months or fined no less than five thousand dinars ($7,000)”.

Article 17 also states that people can be jailed for a year, fined, or both, if they intentionally publish anything that might incite, discord, strife, or target societal peace, incite hatred, justify or call for violence or contempt religions.

The CPFJ confirmed on Tuesday that they will appeal the case and provide Abu Taha with legal assistance.

Earlier this year, the Amman Public Prosecutor detained Abu Taha for one week based on a complaint filed against her by the Jordanian Media Commission regarding an article she wrote.

Jordan has reportedly carried out a crackdown on activists and journalists since 7 October, mainly after protests broke out in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman in March with authorities using cybercrime laws to arrest media workers and activists involved in pro-Palestine activities or covering Jordan’s role in Israel’s war on Gaza.

In August, a coalition of 14 digital rights organisations sent a letter to the King Abullah II of Jordan calling on him to repeal the cybercrime law, arguing that it undermines citizens’ freedoms.

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