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Social media activist sued for ‘mocking’ Jordan TV presenter over census song

By Suzanna Goussous - Jan 04,2016 - Last updated at Jan 04,2016

Omar Zorba

AMMAN — Social media activist Omar Zorba was referred to the prosecutor general on Monday over a lawsuit filed against him for reportedly ridiculing, in a video posted on several websites, the host of a Jordan Television show that broadcast a song about the national census.

The video shows Zorba and two other comedians who share different opinions on the song performed by Jordanian singer Omar Saqqar, with the activist criticising the singer and the host.

In the video, posted in November, Zorba jokingly says: “If the host hadn't nodded his head as the song went on, the singer wouldn’t have continued singing.” 

Saqqar appears to be lip-synching to a pre-recorded song in the live TV show as the presenter, Mijhem Adwan, sits on a couch opposite him. 

Ali Sulibe, Zorba’s lawyer, said Adwan filed a lawsuit against his client, accusing him of libel and slander under the Electronic Crimes Law.

“The law in Jordan states that unless the accused knows the other in person, the act cannot be considered libel. Zorba does not personally know the presenter and did not mean to offend him as a person,” Sulibe told The Jordan Times.

When the 31-year-old activist was referred to the prosecutor, he was not detained for a week, as the law states, according to his lawyer.

“The prosecutor said the ‘crime’ committed does not merit detention,” he added.

Sulibe explained that if a citizen insults another in person, the law does not apply to him, but if the insult was broadcast to a wide audience on social media outlets, for example, there are legal consequences.

The Jordan Press Association and the Centre for Defending the Freedom of Journalists have criticised a decision issued by the Law Interpretation Bureau in November 2015, ruling that slander on news websites and social networking sites is listed under the Electronic Crimes Law, opening the door for the detention of media practitioners.

Zorba, who has more than 435,700 followers on Facebook, told The Jordan Times this is not the first lawsuit he faces for "expressing his opinion on social media".

Jordan Television Director Mohammad Raggad said the song was “an individual initiative” by Saqqar.

The news of the lawsuit sparked the anger of many of Zorba's followers on social media.

“I’m not his fan, but they want to do anything to silence him,” Abood Al Balaawe commented on Facebook.

“He is a young Jordanian who loves his country and gives constructive criticism. My King and Constitution gave me the right of freedom of expression, who are you to deny me this right?” 

 

Eman Mahadeen wrote: “So what? Everyone made fun of that song. Why Omar Zorba?”

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