Jordanian reporter gets one year in prison under draconian new cybercrime law

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of an investigative reporter who has become the first journalist in Jordan to receive a prison sentence under the country’s draconian cybercrime law, which RSF denounced prior to its adoption last year.

A court in Amman sentenced Hiba Abu Taha, a Jordanian investigative journalist of Palestinian origin, to a year in prison on 11 June, one month after her arrest for revealing alleged trade links between Jordanian and Israeli companies despite the war in Gaza.

Abu Taha has been held ever since her arrest on the evening of 13 May following a complaint by Jordan’s Media Commission, which accused her of “inciting sedition and discord among members of the community,” “threatening the peace of the community” and “inciting violence.” The complaint was filed a few days after the news site Annasher published her story on 28 April.

After Amman’s attorney general ordered her detention on charges of “spreading false news” and “inciting sedition” under the cybercrime law – already described as “liberticidal” by RSF –, Abu Taha’s lawyer filed no fewer than ten requests for her release on bail, each of which was refused.

“A prison sentence for a journalist is a scandal in Jordan, one of the few countries in the region not to have reporters behind bars. This sentence constitutes a huge setback for press freedoms in the kingdom and threatens not only Hiba Abu Taha’s safety but also the safety of all reporters. RSF already sounded the alarm about the dangers posed by the new cybercrime law. It must be repealed at once, and Hiba Abu Taha’s conviction must be overturned.

Jonathan Dagher
Head of RSF’s Middle East desk

Hiba Abu Taha's conviction: a threat to the press 

Jordan has seen a surge in harassment of journalists, including arrests, censorship and intimidation since December 2023. Those targeted have included journalists covering demonstrations in support of Gaza or revealing information concerning relations between Jordan and Israel, and the harassment has been carried out under the cybercrime law in particular. 

The victims have included Nour Haddad, a freelancer arrested in December 2023 and held for a week under article 15 of the cybercrime law, and Khair Eddin Aljabri, a correspondent of the Arabic Post news site, who was held for a week in March under article 17 of the same law for allegedly “inciting hatred” and “advocating or justifying violence” after covering protests in Amman against the war in Gaza. 

Freelance reporter Israa al-Sheikh was detained for several hours at Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport on 6 May after being told that she was the subject of proceedings under the cybercrime law. No additional information was provided.

Articles 15 and 17 of the cybercrime law are the ones most used to justify arrests. Under article 15, “any person who intentionally publishes information via a website or social media platforms that contains false news, slander or defamation” can be jailed for three months or fined a minimum fine of 5,000 dinars (6,550 euros). Under article 17, anyone “using a website or social media platform to publish anything that may incite sedition or discord, incite hatred, advocate or justify violence, or defame religions” can be sentenced from one to three years in prison or fined a minimum 5,000 dinars. 

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