UPROAR at #UPR31—Advancing Digital Rights in Jordan

After a frantic couple of months of advocacy work by UPROAR and our partners, the 31st session of the Universal Periodic Review (or #UPR31) wrapped up this week. This time around, we were working hard to get digital rights on the agenda in the reviews of Senegal, Nigeria and Jordan.

In this blog we’ll talk a little about the lessons we learned from our work on Jordan. Next week, we’ll do the same for our efforts on Senegal and Nigeria.

So what did we do?

In all three of our target states, we worked with our partners to put together some hyper-condensed advocacy documents that we hoped would offer diplomats a digestible guide to the major threats to citizens’ human rights online.

The UPROAR team travelled to Geneva for September’s UPR pre-session, alongside coalition partners from Nigeria and Jordan. There, we set up meetings with diplomats to try and convince them to make digital rights a priority in their recommendations.

We were hoping that the recommendations put forward by local digital rights organisations would be picked up by recommending states at the UPR, and that we could secure some strong pledges from the delegations of our target states.

These pledges could then be built upon by our partners to help drive meaningful advances in digital rights at the domestic level.

So that was the plan. But how did things go? Let’s take a look.

Digital rights are seriously under threat in Jordan, with state policy adversely affecting the work of civil society in some pretty significant ways.

The Jordanian authorities have stepped up media control since the previous UPR cycle, especially with regard to online media. The overhaul of the 2012 Press and Publications Law in 2012, the 2015 Cybercrimes Law and its 2018 amendments have significantly curtailed freedom of expression.

More info on digital rights violations in Jordan are available on the UPROAR website.

UPROAR worked with the following organisations to try and put digital rights on the agenda during Jordan’s UPR:

UPROAR suggested that the following digital rights recommendations be made to Jordan during #UPR31:

So those were the recommendations on freedom of expression and digital rights we were hoping for. And these are the ones that were made in #UPR31:

We’re incredibly pleased with these results. Three of the four recommendations put forward by UPROAR and its partners were incorporated into the recommendations that states put forward, and specific provisions in the Press Law, Cybercrimes Law and Penal Code were highlighted by recommending states.

It’s great to see so many countries supporting digital rights at the UPR. Ten states offered specific recommendations on digital rights, out of a total fourteen states that spoke about freedom of expression more generally.

In its response to the recommendations on digital rights, Jordan’s representative acknowledged that work needed to be done to bring legislation into line with international human rights standards:

“Might I also mention the law on cyber criminality. This law needs amendment. It contains technical terms which need to be brought into line with relevant international instruments.” — Ali Mesiri, Jordanian Delegation

Our friends at the Jordan Open Source Association and Privacy International tweeted some of their own observations about the session’s outcomes:

Of course, our work isn’t over – Jordan is yet to respond to these recommendations, and we’re yet to find out which ones it will support and which it will note (that is, reject). We’ll continue to work with our partners to campaign around these recommendations in the months ahead, and to maintain the momentum we’ve built off the back of #UPR31.

UPROAR is an initiative of Small Media. For more information about the UPROAR programme, visit www.uproar.fyi.