(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Hundreds of activists demonstrated across the Kingdom on Friday in protest against what they described as "backsliding" press freedoms.
In a so-called Friday of "Freedom of expression and the press", independent and youth activists rallied to urge authorities to withdraw amendments to the Press and Publications Law endorsed last week, which they claim place new restrictions on the right to free expression.
In a series of rallies organised by the so-called grass-roots popular movements, protesters gathered in Shobak, Irbid, Salt, Aqaba and the Karak village of Fagoua to demand greater speech freedoms and for articles penalising individual speech to be removed from the Penal Code, according to organisers.
In a march shortly after noon prayers, some 200 citizens gathered in downtown Karak, urging the government to release the security services' "grip" on media outlets, chanting: "We are people, not sheep; where is the freedom of the press?"
Meanwhile in Tafileh, 190 kilometres south of the capital, some 60 tribal activists called for an "end to autocracy", accusing the government of Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh of consolidating legislative, executive and judicial powers.
The Tafileh activists also called for the repeal of the Press and Publications Law amendments, which they described as "a return to martial law".
Amman was notably quiet, marking the third straight Friday in which activists have failed to hold rallies in the capital.
The government's unveiling of amendments to the Press and Publications Law, which is expected to be discussed during the extraordinary session of Parliament that begins on Sunday, triggered a backlash last week from political activists and journalists.
Press freedom advocates object to items in the amendments requiring news websites to register with the government and levelling penalties on website owners for the publishing of "illegal" content, including comments from readers.
The government contends that the legislation is meant to regulate the rapidly growing online media sector, which according to official figures comprises over 400 news websites, and will not lead to censorship or restrictions on social media.
Observers saw the relatively low turnout at Friday's protests and the lack of demonstrations in Amman as a sign that Jordan's 19-month-old protest movement has yet to regain momentum lost during the holy month of Ramadan, which passed without a single protest organised by a major opposition group or political force.