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Jordan king backs controversial media law

Jordan's King Abdullah II [official website] on Monday endorsed by royal decree a law that requires Jordanian news websites to register with the government and obtain licenses. The law, which is part of a series of amendments to the Press and Publications Law of 1998 [text], also grants government authorities the ability to block and censor the news content, and holds publishers and editors liable for comments posted on the sites. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] recently suggested that the law threatens freedom of expression online [press release]. The legislation's vague definition of "electronic publications" presents uncertainty with respect to the scope of the law's application, HRW said.

Numerous countries have implemented controversial media laws recently. In July HRW expressed concern [JURIST report] about a proposed media law in Afghanistan that would increase government authority to regulate the press. Kosovo's parliament approved a penal code [JURIST report] in June with new laws that require journalists to reveal their sources and make defamation a crime. In December Algerian lawmakers approved a controversial new media law [JURIST report] that restricts journalists from undermining Algeria's sovereignty, national identity, economy and security, providing for fines up to USD $3,900 and jail time. That same month Hungary's Constitutional Court struck down certain provisions of the country's recently passed media law as an unconstitutional restraint on press freedom [JURIST report].

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