A group of rights organizations urged Jordan to scrap a controversial draft cybercrime law on Monday, joining a chorus of activists opposing the bill that they say would further undermine freedom of speech in the kingdom.

The Jordanian Parliament is currently discussing amendments that the government has recently introduced to the country’s already existing cybercrime law. The bill includes 41 articles compared to 15 in the 2015 law, and imposes hefty penalties and criminal charges for crimes such as using the internet to “undermine national unity,” “inciting immorality,” spreading “fake news” and publishing “hate speech.”

Legal experts have warned that the vague phrasing of the articles give authorities more power to crack down on free speech.

A joint statement by Human Rights Watch joined Access Now, ARTICLE 19 and 11 other organizations read, “Due to the repressive, ambiguous, and complex nature of the proposed law, Jordanian legislators must consult with civil society groups to explore alternative, rights-respecting ways of addressing legitimate concerns around hate speech and disinformation, which are not unique to Jordan.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also sounded the alarm and expressed concerns about the bill’s impact on journalism in Jordan.

“With its imprecise language and punitive approach, it allows prosecutors to exercise tighter control over online media and encourages self-censorship,” Jonathan Dagher, head of RSF’s Middle East desk, was quoted as saying in a statement by the organization last week.

“We urge the Jordanian parliament to reject this proposed law, which should be replaced by one that protects the public’s right to be informed and does not threaten press freedom,” he added.

Activists in Jordan also launched an online campaign criticizing the bill with the Arabic hashtag “A state not a prison.”

The cybercrime law was first adopted in June 2015. It was amended in 2019, despite calls to withdraw it amid concerns for freedom of speech.

According to RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, Jordan ranked 146th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom, dropping 26 places from its previous 120th position last year.

On July 6, Jordanian authorities blocked the satirical news site Al-Hudood without providing an explanation. The move followed the London-based Arabic-language platform’s coverage of last month’s royal wedding of Crown Prince Hussein. Al-Hudood's report on the wedding asked where the money had come from to hold the ceremony at a time when Jordanians are living under difficult economic conditions.

Last year, Al-Monitor’s contributor Daoud Kuttab was briefly detained at Amman airport over a 2019 article about the detention of a Jordanian-American investor. He was accused of spreading misinformation under the country’s cybercrime law. A day earlier, authorities also detained Jordanian journalist Taghreed al-Rishq over a tweet criticizing a pro-government journalist. She was released hours later.