The Jordanian government has ruled that electronic communication like websites will be subject to the country’s Press and Publications Law, prohibiting speech that insults religion, according to reports from the region.

Jordanian blogger Gaith Saqer covered the news in English this afternoon on his blog Arab Crunch.

Critics of the ruling worry that the law will be widely applied to social media, possibly even SMS and to websites that allow reader comments to be posted. Supporters appear to argue that free speech comes with responsibilities along these lines and that the legal framework actually facilitates online communication.

More information is available from the large Jordanian site AmmonNews or translated in English here.

Saqer contacted Google regarding this new front in the battle over censorship and democratized publishing online; he reports that a spokesperson said the company had no comment at this time.

Jordan isn’t unique in having a law that prohibits publishing words critical of religion. The Egyptian government has now held blogger Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman in prison for more than 3 years for contempt of religion and defaming the president of Egypt on his blog. The international watch-dog group Reporters Without Borders issued a press release yesterday saying the Egyptian government has now blocked Suleiman from meeting in jail with his lawyers for a third time.

marshall kirkpatrick

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