The Impact of Cyberspace on Human Rights in Jordan

29 October, 2016

This article was written by 2016 IGMENA training hosted by Diplo online course fellow Mr.Huthaifa Bustanji  

Human rights are rights that founded upon natural law and apply to all human beings. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), put forward at the United Nations (UN) in 1948, encompasses two categories of rights and freedoms as follows:
  1. Civil and political rights: These rights apply basically on individuals and include rights of liberty, security, privacy, fair trial, freedom, and expression.
  2. Economic, cultural, and social rights: These rights apply to communities as well as individuals; they include the rights to health and education, to work, and to participate in cultural life.
On July 2, 2012, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution stating that the rights granted and enjoyed offline must also be protected online in cyberspace. According to the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights, these rights are the freedom of expression and the freedom of information, the right of privacy, the freedom of assembly and the freedom of association.In this context, what are the Jordanian legal rules that can be applied to protect human rights in cyberspace?
Freedom of Expression

The Jordanian Constitution of 1952 ensures the right of expression. Article 15 states, “The State shall guarantee freedom of opinion. Every Jordanian shall be free to express his opinion by speech, in writing, or by means of photographic representation and other forms of expression, provided that such does not violate the law.” The constitutional rules came to ensure freedom of expression, but the rules did not restrict the methods of expression, which means that freedom of expression in both the real world and the virtual world (cyberspace) has been protected under the Jordanian constitution.

Case study

It’s important to distinguish between hate speech and freedom of expression. To clarify this difference, we would like to examine the following case that has occurred in Jordan. A famous crime was committed in Jordan as a result of hate speech, which is the killing of the political writer Nahed Hattar. The condemned crime occurred when Hattar was arrested on August 13, 2016 after posting a caricature on his Facebook account that depicted a bearded man in heaven smoking in bed with women, asking God to bring him wine and cashews. He removed the cartoon shortly thereafter, saying, “It mocks terrorists and their concept of God and heaven. It does not infringe God's divinity in any way.” It is not known who produced the cartoon.

Many Jordanian Muslims considered it offensive and against their religion. Authorities said Hattar violated the law by widely sharing the caricature. He was charged with inciting sectarian strife and insulting Islam, before being released on bail in early September. On Sunday, September 25, 2016, a gunman killed Nahed Hattar outside the courthouse where he was facing charges.

The result of Nahed Hattar’s speech was a murder. That’s not right, because the judicial authorizes must decide the sanctions of his hate speech accuse against Islam. But the extremists breached the law and did their crimes. Indeed, Nahed’s publication insulted the Islamic religion and at the same time the result did not comply with his act. And this is can describe the difference between hate speech and freedom of expression.

Right to Privacy

There is no precise definition for the right to privacy in Jordan, but it can be described as the information or side of our life we can keep private, and a third party does not have the right to use this information without receiving the owners’ permission.

The Jordanian Constitution clarified that personal information is private; article 18 of the law stipulates, “All postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications shall be treated as secret and as such shall not be subject to censorship or suspension except in circumstances prescribed by law.”
In compliance with the development of anti-cybercrimes rules worldwide, Jordan enacted the Electronic Crimes Law in 2015. The legal rules ensured the right of privacy in cyberspace. Article three of the law states: “1) anyone attempting to enter into informative network or information system without taking the permission of the authorized person shall be liable to his action; 2) If the infringing person deleted, modified, added, released, or destroyed data in the informative network or information system, the sanction will be more extreme.”

According to legal enforcement, the Constitution has the upper hand over the law, therefore, all articles mentioned under the law shall be applied taking into consideration the main principle in the Constitution, which is “respectful of the right of expression and right to privacy.”


The Jordanian Constitution confirmed the respect for human rights, like the right to privacy and freedom of expression, but not all subsequent laws have conformed to human rights principles. For example, the Jordanian Electronic Crimes Law stipulated new statuses concerning cybercrimes, but some scholars consider that the field of freedom of expression on cyberspace has been restricted, and a large number of cases, especially expression of political opinions, have been classified as electronic crimes.