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Protests and law enforcement: how to establish a norm

Dec 26,2018 - Last updated at Dec 26,2018

There is no better and more compelling narrative, especially on the part of authorities, than adhering to the principle of the rule of the law and justifying all measures and actions in light of the law of the land. 

The rule of thumb is that no argument is a strong argument, or even an acceptable one, if it contradicts with legislation. 

The slander and insults, especially those directed at national symbols, that some participants practice in protests in Amman and elsewhere are crimes punishable by the law and rejected by the people, including opposition groups. 

It can be easily noticed that many of those who commit these crimes among protesters come from certain social backgrounds, and it can be safely assumed that they rely on their social incubators to get away with their illegal acts. 

At the same time, we sense reluctance on the part of law enforcement agencies to act on such practices, we find that officials promptly jump at the throats of mainstream media if they, even unintentionally, publish anything hinting that the rallies regularly taking place exceeded the limit beyond “calling for reforms”. 

In the meantime, individuals, activists and online-based news providers broadcast live the protests as they are to thousands of people in their living rooms. When these end-users see that the same self-proclaimed opposition figures reappear in the following week and do what they did in the previous one, violating the law blatantly and insulting the leadership, what lesson would they learn? 

Yes, we have seen people on videos giving ultimatums to the state and the leaders, threatening acts of violence if their unjustified demands are not met and then, a few days later, apologising for what they had said and renewing allegiance to the King, but that shift in position was ensured outside the judicial process. 

The cybercrime law, regardless of how its final version would appear, is supposed to have enough deterrence of illegal practices on the Internet. But on the ground, authorities need to make a clear statement that only civilised expression of opposition is allowed, as per the law, and for those who believe the laws are too strict and crippling freedom of expression, there are legal channels to lobby for change. 

The soft approach to protests is commendable and recommended. In fact, it has presented Jordan as an example to the world to follow, since the Arab Spring protests started seven years ago, and it has spared the country the consequences that made all hell break loose in the region around us. However, for those few who want things to go out of control, the court of law should be the only party that decides what to do with them.   

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