The main blogs are produced by journalists seeking more freedom to post their views without their editors’ predictable censorship. They still practice self-censorship and rarely cross the standard red lines, particularly concerning material that could be perceived as harmful to national security, national unity, the country’s economy, or the royal family. The blogs’ substantial difference from traditional media is the interaction they allow between journalists and their readers. Anonymous comments are permitted on most blogs and readers often take different virtual identities when posting their opinions and complaints.
Many blogs are also bilingual and accept feedback in both Arabic and English.
Popular blogs generally tackle human rights, corruption issues, and political developments. Blogs that emphasize the need for free expression include the Black Iris of Jordan (http://www.black-iris.com), What’s Up in Jordan (http://ajloun.blogspot.com), 360east (http://www.360east.com), and 7iber (http://www.7iber.com). Osama Romoh’s blog (http://osamaa.com) was named best weblog by Deutsche Welle users in June 2010.
The Jordanian blogger writes satirically about social issues and developments in his country.
Female bloggers such as Lina Ejeilat, one of the founders of 7iber, are also making headway and finding more freedom of expression online; for decades, traditional newspapers had reserved the important news coverage and opinion columns for male writers. Social networking tools were also used during the November 2010 elections, and in at least one instance, were important for uncovering allegations of fraud.VIOLATIONS OF USER RIGHTS Laws that hinder free expression and access to information include the Jordan Press Association Law (1998), the penal code (1960), the Defense Law (1992), the Contempt of Court Law (1959), the Protection of State Secrets and Classified Documents Law (1971), and the Press and Publications Law (1999). These measures reflect a culture of secrecy that has persisted since the end of martial law in 1989. An Access to Information Law was enacted in 2007, but it contains a number of restrictions. For example, the law bars public requests for information involving religious, racial, ethnic, or gender discrimination (article 10), and allows officials to withhold all types of classified information, a very broad category (Article 13). The government passed a new cybercrime law in August 2010, despite protests from online activists. The law, which proscribes penalties for cybercrimes such as hacking and Betsy Fisher, “Jordan: Tweets Cover Parliamentary Elections Flaws,” Global Voices, November 10, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/11/10/jordan-tweets-cover-parliamentary-election-flaws/.
Arab Archives Institute, “Summary of the Study on Access to Information Law in Jordan,” June 2005, http://www.alarcheef.com/reports/englishFiles/accessToInformation.pdf.
JORDAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net online identity theft, also contains several provisions that could be easily used to suppress free online expression. For example, the new law prohibits posting any information on the web already not available to the public concerning national security, foreign affairs, the national economy, and public safety. It also prohibits publishing any form of “defamation, contempt, or slander,” but it does not specify what constitutes each of those crimes.
Moreover, the law allows the police to conduct searches and access computers at online media outlets without previously obtaining a warrant from public prosecutors. In protest to the new law, several news sites have expressed interest in registering out of Lebanon.
So far, Jordan’s leadership has placed emphasis on reconciliation over severe punishment when dealing with its domestic opponents. Nevertheless, some online commentators have faced legal harassment. Some 20 legal cases were reportedly filed against Jordan-based news websites in 2009.18 In one instance, Khaled Mahadin, a leading columnist and former adviser to the late king Hussein, was dragged in and out of court for months after criticizing the personal expenses of parliament members. In an article published on the news website Khaberni, Mahadin urged the king to dissolve the parliament because of the “illegal privileges” enjoyed by its members at the expense of Jordanian taxpayers.19 He was acquitted of defamation in late April, but at the age of 68, exercising freedom of opinion proved costly to his health.
The threat presented by the restrictive laws that remain on the books, combined with an awareness of extensive content monitoring, has a chilling effect on expression online.
Bloggers and news website owners often complain directly or indirectly about their inability to post news freely due to monitoring. Jordanians are careful when they talk on mobile phones, and extra prudent about what they say at public meetings. This attitude has passed naturally to the internet, where every word and comment is not only read but documented by date, internet-protocol (IP) address, and location. In a 2010 casee that solidified this suspicion, a Jordanian college student Imad Al-Ash was sentenced to two years in prison after security forces accused him of insulting the king in an instant message to a friend and posting “controversial religious opinions” in public online forums.Cybercafes, where users might otherwise write with more anonymity, have been bombarded with a series of restrictive regulations and instructions over the past decade.
Beginning in the summer of 2010, operators have been obliged to install security cameras to monitor customers, who in turn must supply personal identification information before they use the internet. Cafe owners are required to retain the browsing history of users for at least Oula Farawati, “Jordan’s News Websites Running for Legal Cover,” Menassat, March 11, 2009, http://www.menassat.com/q=ar/comment/reply/6143.
Reporters Without Borders, “Court Acquits Well-Known Columnist of Defaming Parliament,” news release, April 29, 2009, http://en.rsf.org/jordan-court-acquits-well-known-columnist-29-04-2009,32743.html.
Ahmad Al-Shagra, “Jordanian Student Sentenced to 2 Years Over IM,” The Next Web, July 19, 2010, http://thenextweb.com/me/2010/07/19/royal-ash-jordanian-student-sentenced-to-jail-for-2-years-over-im/.
JORDAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net six months.21 Authorities claim these restrictions are needed for security reasons. In any case, the once-thriving cybercafe business is now in decline due to the restrictions as well as the decrease in the cost of home connections.
In addition to government monitoring, news websites and online writers face intimidation by traditionalist readers, who flood their comments sections with threatening messages in a bid to muzzle independent thought and free expression. Moreover, websites such as Ammonnews.net, Khaberni.com, and Jorday.net have been subjected to hacking attacks whenever sensitive material is posted or during times of social tension.
International Freedom of Expression Exchange, “Cyber crime law attacks free expression; Internet cafs monitored,” August 18, 2010, http://www.ifex.org/jordan/2010/08/18/cyber_cafe/ JORDAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net KAZAKHSTAN 2009 POPULATION: 16.3 million INTERNET FREEDOM n/a Partly INTERNET PENETRATION: 28 percent STATUS Free WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS BLOCKED: Yes Obstacles to Access n/a SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: Yes Limits on Content n/a BLOGGERS/ONLINE USERS ARRESTED: No Violations of User Rights n/a PRESS FREEDOM STATUS: Not Free Total n/a INTRODUCTION Kazakhstan’s government has sought to make the internet a new source of economic strength and build the country into the information-technology hub of Central Asia. With that goal in mind, the government has made modest efforts to liberalize the telecommunications sector, promote internet usage, and enhance the internet portals of state entities. At the same time, the authorities also attempt to control citizens’ access to information and apparently fear the internet’s democratizing potential. In recent years, the government has blocked a popular blog-hosting platform and passed several pieces of legislation that restrict free expression online, particularly on topics that are deemed threatening to President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s power and reputation.
Kazakhstan’s.kz internet country code was registered in 1994, and its first websites in Russian and Kazakh were launched in 1996 and 1998, respectively. The main ministries and agencies responsible for regulating information and communication technologies (ICTs) were established in 2004 and 2005. A few years later, the government initiated several programs to promote internet use, such as a plan to lower digital inequality and a scheme to expand online government functions. This trend continued in 2010, with the creation of a new Ministry of Communications and Information tasked with formulating an ICT development strategy for 2010–14. Adil Soz, “Отменена Концепция развития единого информационного пространства казахстанского сегмента сети Интернет на 2008–2012 гг” [Development Concept of the United Information Space of the Kazakh Segment of the Internet for 2008–2012 Is Canceled], Internews Kazakhstan, May 19, 2010, http://www.internews.kz/newsitem/19-05-2010/11551.
Muratbek Makulbekov, “Kazakhstan has 4.3 mln Internet users—Minister of Communications and Information,” KazInform, January 10, 2011, http://www.kazinform.kz/eng/article/2338805.
International Telecommunications Union (ITU), “ICT Statistics 2009—Internet,” http://www.itu.int/ITUD/icteye/Reporting/ShowReportFrame.aspxReportName=/WTI/InformationTechnologyPublic&ReportFormat=HTML4.0& RP_intYear=2009&RP_intLanguageID=1&RP_bitLiveData=False.
OpenNet Initiative, “Country Profile: Kazakhstan,” May 10, 2007, http://opennet.net/research/profiles/kazakhstan.
Aleksandr Vasilyev, “Казнет в разрезе” [Kaznet in Section], Computer Club Magazine, March 12, 2010, republished by Profit Online at http://www.profit.kz/articles/001192/.
Vasilyev, ““Казнет в разрезе.” Yulia Semykina, “Интернет-кафе Алматы” [Internet Cafe Almaty], Kontinent, June 13, 2007, republished by Profit Online at http://www.profit.kz/articles/000205.
Kazakhstan Today, “Прожиточный минимум в Казахстане в октябре составил 13 161 тенге” [Subsistence Minimum in Kazakhstan in October Amounted to 13,161 Tenge], Zakon.kz, November 2, 2009, http://www.zakon.kz/152083prozhitochnyjj-minimum-v-kazakhstane-v.html; Mojazarplata.kz, “Что такое минимальная заработная плата” [What Is the Minimum Wage], http://mojazarplata.kz/main/dohody-minimum/Minimalnaja_zarplata/minimalnaja-zarplata, accessed May 14, 2010.
KAZAKHSTAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net Some advanced web applications are available and quite popular; in mid-2010, the fifth-most-visited website in Kazakhstan was the Russian social-networking platform Vkontakte.ru.9 The video-sharing website YouTube and the microblogging service Twitter are also growing in popularity. However, the international blog-hosting platform LiveJournal was blocked beginning in October 2008 by the two largest internet-service providers (ISPs), the state-owned Kazakhtelecom, and Nursat, though the companies refused to acknowledge the filtering.10 The impetus for the block was to restrict access to content posted by Rakhat Aliyev, Nazarbayev’s former son-in-law (see “Limits on Content”). In November 2010, shortly before Kazakhstan hosted a summit of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), LiveJournal administrators froze Aliyev’s account, possibly due to pressure from the Kazakh authorities. The platform was subsequently unblocked after over two years of being inaccessible.11 Access to Blogger.com was similarly restricted, with the exception of sporadic openings, for much of 2010.With nearly 15 million users, mobile-phone penetration reached approximately percent by 2009, and has continued to grow since.13 The number of users accessing the internet via mobile devices is also increasing, though the mobile internet penetration rate was only 7 percent in 2010.14 While mobile internet access is relatively new to the market, its advertising revenue is on the rise. During the last three years, WiMax networks have also become available in Kazakhstan.
The state-owned Kazakhtelecom is the largest ISP and holds a 48 percent market share.15 Another six operators are licensed to connect to the international internet.
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