JORDAN: Journalist Ahmed al-Zoubi jailed in Jordan 11 months after conviction under Cybercrime Law

Jordanian authorities must immediately drop all charges against  journalist Ahmed Hassan al-Zoubi, release him from jail, and stop using the Cybercrime Law against journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

Committee to Protect Journalists (08.07.24) – On July 2, Jordanian authorities arrested al-Zoubi, a satirical journalist and publisher of the Sawalif news website, 11 months after he was fined 50 dinars (US$70) and sentenced to one year in prison for a Facebook post criticizing the government’s position on a controversial December 2022 transportation workers’ strike, according to multiple media reports and al-Zoubi’s lawyer, who spoke to CPJ.

Al-Zoubi is now in Marka prison in the capital, Amman, his lawyer, Khaled Jit, told CPJ via messaging app.

“Jordanian authorities are stepping up censorship and arrests of journalists instead of allowing them to express themselves freely,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York. “Jordanian authorities must immediately release journalist Ahmed al-Zoubi, drop all charges against him, and stop using cybercrime laws to punish journalists.”

Al-Zoubi was convicted under Jordan’s Cybercrime Law of “the crime of performing an act that led to provoking conflict between the elements of the nation.”

CPJ, along with other rights organizations, has criticized the 2023 law.

Al-Zoubi’s lawyer told CPJ that there were procedural errors during the trial and asked the court to consider an alternative punishment to prison.

Khaled Qudah, a member of the Jordanian Journalists’ Syndicate, told CPJ that the organization respects the judiciary and its decisions, but that legal decisions and procedures regarding freedom of speech needed revision.

Al-Zoubi’s arrest comes weeks after the Soloh Court in Amman sentenced journalist Heba Abu Taha to one year in prison after convicting her of violating the Cybercrime Law for “inciting discord and strife among members of society” and “targeting community peace and inciting violence.”

The arrest also follows a decision in May to shutter the Al-Yarmouk TV channel in Jordan, where al-Zoubi worked years earlier.

CPJ’s email to Jordan’s Ministry of Justice for comment did not immediately receive a response.

Photo: Ahmed al-Zoubi, a satirical journalist and publisher of the Sawalif news website, was arrested by Jordanian authorities on July 2, 2024. He had been convicted under Jordan’s Cybercrime Law 11 months earlier. (Still from video: YouTube/Al-Yarmouk TV)