Online Blackout to Protest Anti-Freedom of Speech Laws Against Press on the Internet


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The “Free Net” campaign joined forces with Jordanian online newspapers in announcing the 28th of August, 2012, to be internet blackout day. Online websites along with online news sites decided to turn their pages black in protest of the legal restrictions regarding press freedom after passing a bill on press and publication. The restrictions include but are not limited to: a permit for printed publication, holding online website accountability over published comments and forcing the websites to filter visitors’ comments and disregarding those comments if found not relevant to the published post or in case it was found fake. As well, forcing websites to register all visitors’ comments in a ledger for a period no less than six months. The new bill requires all websites in Jordan to register and obtain a permit from the department of print and publication, to be treated as any printed press newspaper and to be subjected to the same laws. One of the bill’s articles gives the absolute authority to the general manager of the department of print and publication to block online websites that are published from abroad in case they don’t meet the same restrictions as the local websites.

The Free Net campaign reached out to online news websites asking them to turn their pages black and to publish a public announcement to the audience “You May Not Access the Content of This Webpage if Print and Publication Laws are Approved." They also asked social media activists to use #BlackoutJO and #FreeNetJO to tweet their voices to raise awareness of such a bill. Black pages took websites by storm, which meant thousands of people tasted how it could be in the case that the bill was approved. The Free Net campaign strongly believes in the importance of freedom of speech and press and having access to information and news coming from Jordanian networks as the primary source of the local news and to have a platform of a diverse opinions and points of view.

Wednesday, the 28th of August, 2014, more than 500 websites across Jordan, the Middle East, and the world blackened their webpages announcing their rejection of the restrictions of the press and publication laws, in solidarity with the Free Net campaign in Jordan. A new campaign started on social media. Thousands of tweets and Facebook comments were sent in support of the blackout of websites, hoping to raise awareness of the risks in accepting the restrictions over the press which would be a huge setback in freedom of speech in Jordan.

Many Jordanians and Arab bloggers tweeted in support of Free Net or to raise awareness of the campaign.

Unfortunately, press and publication laws were approved and passed by the Jordanian parliament. Many websites were forced to register in the department of Print and Publication, which caused the arrest of a few journalists after publishing articles on their websites as well as blocking the website, which broke the law.


New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 
The Free Net campaign was inventive in their approach to protesting restrictive laws to free speech. They employed a two-pronged approach using both the promotion of the cause on social media, and blacking out new webpages with the bold and provocative statement “You May Not Access the Content of this Webpage if Print and Publication Laws are Approved”. In their protest, they showed what life would be like if the laws passed. They demonstrated the importance of having a right and sent a powerful message. 
While the tactic in this context was not successful, it reveals the importance of free speech. When considering using such a tactic, use with caution and not in a way that would harm others.