On 1st January 2020 Netflix started streaming Messiah, a series about a mysterious figure, Al-Masih, played by Belgian actor Mehdi Dehbi. It is not clear whether he is a divine entity ... or simply a charlatan.
But according to an on-line
petition, Al-Masih is, in fact, the Muslim version of the antiChrist. The Royal Film Commission of Jordan has asked Netflix not to stream the drama in the country. The Jordanian government organisation's Managing Director, Mohannad al-Bakr, held a press
conference with local media. He said:
While still standing firmly by its principles, notably the respect of creative freedom, the RFC -- as a public and responsible institution -- cannot condone or ignore messages that
infringe on the Kingdom's basic laws.
The RFC's announcement represents an about-face for the organisation. Its statement acknowledges that Messiah was partially shot in the Kingdom in 2018, and that, after it had reviewed synopses
for the series' episodes, it approved the shoot and granted the show a tax credit.
A spokesperson for Netflix indicated that they have not received a formal legal request to remove the series from the streamer's Jordanian service.
Jordan's King Abdullah has endorsed a new repressive media law.
The legislation requires electronic publications in Jordan to get a licence from the government.
It also gives the authorities the power to block and censor websites,
whose owners will be held responsible for comments posted on them.
Human Rights Watch accused the government of using such legislation to go after opponents and critics . The organisation said the dangers of the amendments to the Press and
Publications Law arose from its vague definition of the electronic publications which would be affected, the new executive power to block websites, and the unreasonable restrictions on online content, including comments posted by website users.
The legislation's definition of electronic publication is an electronic site on the internet with a fixed address that offers publication services . Any that publish news, investigations, articles, or comments, which have to do with the
internal or external affairs of the kingdom must register with the commerce ministry and get a licence from the culture ministry.
The culture ministry will have the authority to block websites that are either unlicensed or deemed to be in
violation of any law, and to close the website's offices without providing a reason or obtaining a court order.
The owner, editor and director of an electronic publication will share the responsibility for comments posted on their website, and be
obliged not to publish any containing information or facts unrelated to the news item or if the truth has not been checked , or if they violate laws .
Over two hundred Jordanian websites went dark on Wednesday, in a SOPA-like protest of draft legislation that would allow the government to block and censor Internet content. The action was coordinated by a grassroots organization of tech savvy Jordanians
and the editors of various Jordanian websites, with blackout screens on dozens of widely read digital news sites and blogs.
The Internet blackout protest was originally planned for September, in response to the demand of a conservative grassroots
group, Ensaf, that the government filter pornography sites. The government's tepidly supportive attitude to Ensaf, combined with the many followers it had garnered for its Facebook page, gave rise to concerns that a wide consensus in favor of banning
online porn would provide the government with an opportunity to give itself more power to control the Internet.
When the details of the draft legislation was released last week, the activists' fears were confirmed. The proposed amendment to the
existing Press and Publication Law, if passed and enforced, would indeed grant the government sweeping powers to censor and block online content, stifling debate and the free expression of opinion. And so the protest was coordinated and carried out
within four days.
The draft legislation includes articles that would hold online media accountable for any comments left by their readers, and would prohibit them from publishing any comments deemed irrelevant to the published article. Moreover,
online media organizations would also be required to archive all comments left on their sites for at least six months. However, the most troublesome amendment essentially requires online media to register with and obtain a license from the Press and
Publications Department, paying a fee of roughly $1,400 (lowered from an initially proposed $14,000), and giving the government the ability to block sites failing to comply. Bringing online news sites in to the folds of the Press and Publications law
would therefore require them to be mandatory members of the Jordan Press Association, and undergo the same regulations governing print publications, including appointing an editor-in-chief who has been a member of the association for a minimum of four
Parliament's decision on the proposed new law is pending.
A few people, (described as 'dozens') took to the streets in Jordan to urge the government to block pornographic websites in the country, the Jordan Times reported.
Internet in the country has mostly been uncensored by authorities, however nutters
have launched campaigns on Facebook calling on authorities to block sites they claim inflict any negative physical or psychological impact on the younger generation, the newspaper reported.
The government should immediately instruct
telecom companies and internet services providers to block these websites, spouted Ammar Al Saket, who launched a campaign on Facebook.
Nutters are pushing for internet porn to be blocked in Jordan. The Pink Cross Foundation, Girls Against Porn & Human Trafficking, & Cedars Cultural and Educational Foundation are lobbying the Jordanian government. In addition about 32,000
Facebook users have added their name to petition.
The Jordanian Ministry of Communications, Information & Technology has also voiced support for internet censorship.