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Jordan arrests organiser of phone boycott campaign

Eggs, potatoes, and now telecom companies – Jordan’s boycott movement against overpriced goods is gaining steam
A girl plays on her phone as she sits on the ramparts of Amman's Citadel overlooking the Roman Theatre in the Jordanian capital (AFP)

Jordanian security services on Tuesday arrested the organiser of a telecoms boycott campaign to protest against a new tax on phone and social media users.

The arrest of Essam Zabin came a few hours before the launch of a campaign called “Sakkar khattak” (Shut off your phone line), which urged fellow citizens to boycott telecommunication companies for half a day.

Jordanians turned off their mobiles on Wednesday from 12AM to 2PM local time in protest against a government initiative to tax communication through mobile phones, and applications such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

“Family, friends, and relatives,” Jordanians all posted on social media, “I apologise for switching off my phone line and for not receiving any calls on Wednesday 02/01/2017 from 12 until 2 in support for the boycott campaign.”

Activists told local media they hoped the government would “read the message very well, and pay attention to the public support for the campaign.”

The campaign is not the first of its kind. Only days ago, Jordanians boycotted eggs and potatoes in protest against price rises.

The movement, called “We are boycotting,” forced the government to impose a price ceiling for eggs, according to Arabi 21.

The campaign's Facebook page has over one million likes in a country of seven million. A statement by the group says the campaign was started due to "the country’s conditions and the policy followed by the looting government headed by (Prime Minister Hani) al-Mulki, as well as the betrayal by the parliament of the Jordanian people, as did previous parliaments that did not care about the sufferings of Jordanian citizens due to the difficult economic conditions.”

“Jordanian citizens are suffering a lot from the government’s attempts to cover their deficit using the citizens’ money, particularly, this mindless government,” the statement continued.

“It keeps overlooking the corruption caused by nepotism, and the poverty and unemployment that the Jordanian youth are suffering from,” it added.

“This has led to an increase in crimes and suicide rates among the youth,” the statement said.

Jordan’s minister of communications, Majd Shweikeh, recently said at a panel discussion in his ministry that “communications companies are complaining about the use of messaging applications.”

The event was broadcast on the ministry’s Facebook page.

Government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani defended the boycotters on Jordanian TV, saying the boycott of expensive goods was “civilised behaviour practised in most countries.”

“We are an open and free country, citizens have the right to express their views,” he said.

Zabin’s arrest was confirmed by his lawyer Tahir Nasser on Tuesday.