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Increasing censorship irks Jordanians

One of the most open countries in the Middle East flirts with Internet regulations.

“If you compare Jordan to pretty much all the countries I can think of in the region, I think we have the best freedoms online,” said Ammar Ibrahim, chief technical officer of Al Bawaba, an online news site headquartered in Amman.

He said stories of arrests and other harassment by authorities are mostly isolated incidents, not a general trend. The government does not appear to want to regulate the internet, he said, only place restrictions on what is posted online.

Cases like Al-Ash’s, he said, have more to do with the individual than they do with overall internet freedoms.

With no concrete evidence, it’s unlikely that the Supreme Court will even hear the case, said Saleh Armouti, Al-Ash’s lawyer. They’re more likely to order his immediate release. Even in cases with hard evidence, it’s unusual that such defamation would result in any extreme penalties.

“A lot of cases like this are dropped. There are many people who go to the mukhabarat to accuse people they hate of saying bad things about the King. Most of these cases are fake so most people are released,” Armouti said.

Al-Ash’s treatment has led many familiar with the case to speculate that the government may be trying to make an example of him, a cautionary tale to other internet users who think they can get away with anonymous postings.