The Dangers Of Unionizing The Jordanian Blogosphere

Two sites were brought to my attention recently, both having similar missions in mind: a Jordanian bloggers association and a Jordanian bloggers union. Both are hosted on Maktoob blogs, and looking through them briefly I read their respective charters. The idea is fairly unique as you don’t see too many blogging associations or unions in a country-context on the blogosphere very often, except in the Arab world. Perhaps its our love of unionizing? In any case these two sites, which sprung up around the same time, struck me as fairly interesting.

First, let me state that I have respect for any initiative that aims to bring bloggers of a certain group together if there is a specific purpose in mind. If it is merely to retain identity, culture or religion in an ever-increasing circle, then that’s another story.

For instance, when looking at the union’s charter, they start with an outline of their purpose or goals, which I generally agree with. However, they follow this up with rules if a blogger becomes a member of their union.

Some of the rules include the prohibition of writing anything insulting the monotheist religions, prophets or their companions, as well as writing nothing that contradicts Jordanian tradition, or insulting Jordanian leadership, Jordanian security and the leadership of any Arab nation. A member who breaks any of these rules will be kicked out of the union without any prior warning. The union also goes on to state that its future ambitions include issuing membership cards along the lines of those given to journalists from the Jordan Press Association, as well as having a physical office. Interesting, no?

As for the association, they have a few particularly unique conditions as well. While offenses against any of the rules or fellow members will result in warnings, an investigatory committee will be formed to, well, investigate these matters and determine if any offense has been committed.

This maybe just me, but I get the sense that these initiatives might be led by a crowd that is a bit older than the average early-20-something age in Jordan, and indeed the world. If this isn’t the case then that would be a bit unfortunate.

The Internet and particularly the blogosphere seems, until now, to be an arena in Jordan where free speech has, and can continue to, thrive. Especially in contrast to the outlets available in the mainstream. And what is beautiful about the Internet and the blogosphere is in fact the lack of regulation; it is, in my opinion, the single most significant reason as to why it has thrived and will continue to do so if there are no rules, no censorship, no regulations, no external interferences.

Here we have what looks like the emergance of user-driven intiatives that want to internally regulate their respective spheres. Why? If the purpose is to bring bloggers together, exchange knowledge, have meetups, represent a national identity, partake in community action, then aggregators have the power to do that without interfering to place rules on members with regards to who they are able to criticize, what they are supposed to represent, what they can and cannot say. Placing such restrictions seems a bit ludicrious to me. If the blogosphere is the one arena left untouched by the government, why should the citizens come in and say, you know what, we need to regulate this ourselves; put our own rules. It does not make sense to me.

Like I mentioned earlier, I do appreciate initiatives with the purpose of bringing people together for an actual purpose. But to create a union or association, with membership, rules, regulations, investigatory committees; doesn’t this seem self-defeating? Doesn’t this feel like a divergence from the identity of the Internet and into the realms of traditional norms in Jordan that we are struggling to get away from? Jordan Press Association anyone?

If they are formed for the sake of preserving an identity, then I would have to ask what is the Jordanian identity or any national identity for that matter? Those who come from certain towns, who speak one language, who praise and represent one aspect of our culture deemed to be the dominant one? Jordan is a spectrum of colors representing different languages, religions, backgrounds, ethnicities, histories, cultures, etc. Who defines what?

These initiatives can be a slippery slope and I’m not sure where they’ll go. I wouldn’t be surprised if people across the ideological spectrum would perceive them to be “mukhabarat-led” initiatives, in an attempt to regulate the blogosphere in a clever, clandestine and internally-directed manner. It is one of the obvious conclusions that a young Jordanian would draw.

At the end of the day, this is all just my two piasters on the matter and I’m sure you all have yours. However, I do feel that when it comes to the blogosphere and the Internet in general, the word “rules” or “regulations” is the last thing that is needed. And if such words are presented to us under terms such as “association” or “union” then caution needs to be paid. That being said, I am not suggesting that these two particular initiatives mentioned in this post have any sinister intents in mind. But like I said, both the founders, followers and observers of such initiatives need to be careful when it comes to imposing rules on anyone, especially bloggers.


  • “Some of the rules include the prohibition of writing anything insulting the monotheist religions, prophets or their companions, as well as writing nothing that contradicts Jordanian tradition, or insulting Jordanian leadership, Jordanian security and the leadership of any Arab nation.”

    This is very ambiguous and arbitrary. It’s like having ‘unwritten rules’, you don’t know you’ve broken them until someone decides you have. I found that the word ‘insult’ covers a wide range of definitions, from slander down to ‘mild annoyance’. I The basic tenants of monotheistic religions contradict one another, who will determine what is an ‘insult’ to another? I have a pretty good idea.

    As if the blogosphere wasn’t squelched enough here. Lord have mercy.

  • maybe the word “union” is used a little differently in jordan than it’s used here in the u.s. (i am a lawyer who specializes in representing labor unions and their members in the states), but i’m a little confused what this proposed bloggers union is for.

    the idea behind unions is that they are a group of workers to increase the worker’s bargaining power when they deal with their employer. if a guy pushes a broom and tries to negotiate for higher pay, he has no real bargaining power and there’s no need for the employer to listen to him. he can threaten to walk off the job unless he gets the raise, but the employer has no reason to listen to the guy because it knows that if he walks off the job he is easily replaced by someone else. if, on the other hand, the sweeper is part of a union of sweepers, that group can bargain collectively. that is, rather than demanding a raise with the threat of a single employee walking off the job, the union can threaten for everyone to leave at once. while one person is easily replaced, the entire workforce is not. bargaining collectively through a union gives everyone more bargaining power.

    so that’s what i think a union is. but who exactly would this blogger’s union be negotiating against? you don’t really have an “employer”. to the extent you get paid for blogging, its through advertising, which doesn’t work on the normal employee-employer model. and some bloggers don’t get paid at all. why would bloggers agree to give up any of their independence, subjecting themselves to union rules without getting the benefit of unionization (greater bargaining power)?

  • exactly, what do they offer a blogger that is worth abiding by the restrictions? It remembers me actually with the Arab Journalism Ministers Conference a year ago, they reached an understanding with those same exact restrictions on TV channels.

    If the assumed benefit is a group behind journalistic bloggers, so that they can interview whomever just as any other journalist of a mainstream newspaper… I think that blog attracts audience interested in the specific content of that blog. Its not journalism!

  • I don’t usually laugh while raeding your posts as they are pretty serious and stimulating but as I linked to those two sites I got a real crack.
    I claim to be a good follower of Jordanian blogs but have never heared of the members (founders) of the two unions. However, I respect every effort and this is not the real problem.
    The main concern is the tendenacy to unionize blogging. Why should this happen? Who can give themselves the right to label their “entity” as Jordanian Bloggers Association and claim the ownership of such a huge title? What is worst is that the massive association restricts “management” role to founders only and excludes new members from any position.
    The establishment of a union and an association is just like the two competing “writers union” and “writer association” in Jordan. We really love establishing frameworks and titles.
    I think this whole issue is a joke and should not bring a lot of attention. The so-called blogsphere thrives on spontaneous entities and creative writing and can never be institutionalised.
    Nas, By the way, why don’t you make a few phone calls and establish a bloggers “forum” or “council” or “We are all bloggers” entity and put yourself as president in a democratic way? It is not much of an effort, and I am sure Maktoob will have no objection of hosting the new entity as well!

  • hahaha

    So these unions are going to step up and defend bloggers in courts? or are they going to give bloggers unemployment insurance benefits in case they couldnt blog anymore? will they negotiate better working conditions with blogger and wordpress? or will they make sure that every blogger receives an adequate salary and health insurance? maybe issue press cards?


    just another attempt to control the content of blogs.

  • Dear black Iris;

    Your blog on the union of bloggers reminded me of a statement I had read a few years back on India’s ICT burgeoning industry when the Indian governemnt wanted to establsih a regulatory commission. Indian business people responded that the only reason ICT did well in Inida was because it was unregulated 9India had inherited many beaurcratic structures for the British Raj which curtailed its development vis-a-vis Japan–see M friedman, Free to Choose).

    Unions in Jordan are rent seekers (all of them, not some, not the majority but alas the whole lot of them), they survive through their mandatory memberships and subsequent fees. They provide little service in terms of promoting the welfare of their members 9training, upgrading of skills,but harness them with monopoly them rights, and place sanctions upon them. In the process they have grown to be fat organizations. Monopolies being inefficiient, they ahve become the very enemies of development and improvement. based on this, I truly disdain any type of union in Jordan. Even some unions that we have created through foreign funding and with the very best intentions are fast becoming nothing but tithing systems that exclude non-memebers and punish through non-accrdetation those who are not.

    In principle, unions allow memebers the right ot collective bargaining, but their memebership should not be compulsory. people should seek to join them for the benefits they provide, not the exclusiornary powers they may endow. For when the latter is the purpose, inefficicney sets in and we have the status quo we all suffer from.

  • spare me ,أتركوني لوحدي ،شي غاد، لا يابا، لست معكم،ألعب وحدك تجي راضي ،ما ينفعش ,سؤال واحد نسيم ،ما هوا دور الحكومه

    فكوا عني

  • I think the gravest danger of these groups are given recognition by the state and then used as an excuse to suppress online freedom of expression by saying that bloggers have to adhere to the rules of these groups.

    I think the people behind these groups are either too naive or have hidden agendas.

  • I had never heard of this effort before and these terms that you speak of make it seem like it’s started by people who are not regular bloggers….it’s just so un-bloggerworld like.

    I think Ahmad makes a great point with his first sentence

    “First, let me state that I have respect for any initiative that aims to bring bloggers of a certain group together if there is a specific purpose in mind. If it is merely to retain identity, culture or religion in an ever-increasing circle, then that’s another story.” So I know you meant to focus the post on this union issue…why don’t you consider retaining identity, culture, or religion a purpose? Not that I’m a fan of such objectives I’ve rejected defining purposes of my blogging a while back…I’m just curious as to why you dismissed those ’causes’ (for lack of better word)

    Anyway, I think the attention you’ve given the so called union organizers with this post may not get them very far

  • @upyernoz: good and valid questions!

    @hatem: succinct and well put!

    @yusuf mansur: i don’t think the union depicted by any of these online initiatives is subject to the traditional definitions abound in the economic context. however, as you noted, even these initiatives will inevitably become an exclusionary force.

    @hamzeh: yup, that is something worth thinking about.

    @asoom: those things…identity, culture, religion, even profession…they can be retained in a closed circle, where a group of bloggers with some very specific in common can come together and form a collective. however, what i am talking about here is doing such a thing under the guise of a single nationality. in other words, to define jordan or a “jordanian blog” as having the following characteristics, for example: arab, muslim, arabic, et cetera et ceterea.

  • these unions are a waste of time they wont be truly successfull, people who write in them will probably be hand picked, the site will be promoted and will receive success khawa. this is how some people will want to control it like they control everything else.

  • And yet in our society of Wanna-be- wann- belong –to- any- organization-that-sounds- legitimate , you will inevitably get those who are ready to sign up with both organizations so that they can brag to friends that they are “members’ . It does not faze such people that the rules are decrepit and the organizations gratuitous. These people will join just to be ‘part of something’, to have a legitimacy that being a single individual; a single living-breathing-free-thinking entity does not give them. Pathetic isn’t the right word, but it’s the one that comes to mind

  • “Jordan is a spectrum of colors representing different languages, religions, backgrounds, ethnicities, histories, cultures, etc. ”

    For real? are you talking about the 1% or the 99%? If it comes to Jordan demography, 80% percent of Jordanian population is Muslim , if not more. 70% or more are originally from one background. I’m not sure what you talking about.. when you talk about diversity of Jordan. Jordanians in large have one culture. You either Engineer , Doctor, or maybe Lawyer to be respected , otherwise, you are deemed as whatever.

    Going back to the subject, I firmly believe that the blogging -and the internet in general- just has been born . Everyone in the world is shockingly happy with this new baby. No one knows what this baby will look like when it grows . Therefore, we do not know what to do, we are still in shock. Should we embrace regulations ? Is there a real threat? . We don’t know yet or at least we do not see it. Just wait few years more when we are out of this shock and this baby reveal itself, and see how everything will be transformed toward stricter regulations and more mandates.

    Humans are humans. We live in offline world under rules and regulations. The earth did not create these regulations. Humans did. what make you think that the online world is different? Because you can not be chased? maybe you are right for now! But before you know it, a technology will evolve to identify each one of us. Just wait.

    On other note. Unions, organizations, or any kind of grouping – in the Arabic world – come from the fact the Arabs like to be leaders. I’m not saying, all of them, but maybe 99.9% they love to be managers, ministers, directors, presidents, etc. Leadership is in their DNA. It does not matter whether it is constructive or destructive type of leadership. It is just the fact they are on top, it makes them satisfy Maslow’s highest level of needs , which is self actualization! oh my!

    Finally , this is my first time I am posting on this website and I want to thank you for establishing such place to start dialogue to try to correct what is wrong in Jordan. There is plenty to work on. I’m looking forward to read more of your posts.


Your Two Piasters: