Jordan: New press law for religious defamation

Jordanian lawmakers on Sunday endorsed controversial press and publication legislation that would slaps heavy fines and prison terms on journalists for violations including slander and religious defamation. The Jordan Press Association called the legislation a setback in freedoms and said it would adversely affect the country's reform process. More than 200 of the association's members staged a peaceful demonstration in front of parliament protesting the legislation as the 110-seat Lower House dominated by conservative tribal leaders and Islamists debated it. Though the new legislation is less stringent than Jordan's current press law, activists say it does not go far enough in protecting freedoms. According to the legislation, journalists can convicted of defaming religions protected under the constitution or offending religious prophets in writing or in drawings. They also can be found guilty if their writings are viewed as an insult to religious sentiments or incite sectarian strife and racism. The law also punishes journalists for slander or libel of individuals and for spreading false information or rumors.