Defamation Law in the UAE: everything you need to know.

Several high-profile defamation lawsuits have made news in the UAE in recent years. The majority of them dealt with incidents via social networking. Insulting and defamatory words posted on social media are treated the same as if they were written in a newspaper, magazine, or book, according to UAE law. However, the ramifications can be disastrous. Because of the informal character of social media, authors are frequently ignorant of the impact of their remarks. Social media provides a higher danger and damage than conventional means due to its rapid and widespread reach.

What does defamation mean in the UAE?

Defamation is when someone or something is targeted and false charges are made against them in order to harm their reputation. Libel and Slander are the two sorts of defamation.

  • 1. Libel: "Defamatory remarks that are propagated through print media and written form are known as libel. Libel isn't just restricted to the written word. Libel can be formed by defamation generated through signboards, drawings, pictures, or even the exhibition of monuments."
  • 2.Slanders: "False comments spoken as though they were true to others, frequently out of hatred or wrath." Presenting an unfounded allegation about a coworker taking something from the office, telling false stories about a person to his spouse with the purpose to destroy their relationship, and so on are some examples of slander."

Defamation Law in the UAE

In the UAE, defamation is prosecuted under criminal law rather than civil law, as it is in most other nations. Articles 371 to 380 of UAE Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 allow a criminal charge for defamation to be lodged against an individual or entity. According to the legislation, any individual or organization shall avoid making any comment that might be harmful to the person or organization to whom the statement is directed. All three components of the defamation offense must be met in order to make a slander allegation:

  • A defamatory or false statement was made.
  • The statement was made either verbally or in writing in front of a third person (witness).
  • The comment has caused any kind of harm.

The merits of a complaint might be questioned if any of the foregoing factors are missing.

Defamatory words are uttered with the goal to subject someone to punishment, humiliation, or public contempt, according to the Court of Cassation (highest court). It was further clarified that simple criticism might be considered defamatory if it goes beyond "normal limitations" or harms the defamed person's reputation.
If proven guilty under the Penal Code, the culprits might face a two-year prison sentence or a fine of up to AED 20,000. If the comment is made against a public official, however, the penalties may be increased. When an insult is directed towards a person's family honor, it will be deemed aggravating circumstances, and severe consequences will be imposed.
Defamatory words against religious beliefs, as well as showing disdain for any faith, are classified as distinct offenses. As previously stated, defamation is a criminal offense, hence the complaining party has the right to sue for civil damages and compensation after the criminal conviction.

Defamation on social media in the UAE

Social media has grown more important in the context of defamation law in recent years. We are increasingly using social media to vent our frustrations. The majority of the time, these outbursts are unintentional and a consequence of rage. It doesn't matter how insignificant it sounds or appears; it can have terrible consequences.

It is illegal under Article 20 of the Cyber Crime Law to:

  • Insult people or place others in circumstances where they may be punished;
  • Disregarding people through computer networks, electronic media, or social media.

If found guilty under Article 20, you might face a prison sentence and a fine ranging from AED 25,000 to AED 500,000. If you are a foreigner, you should expect to be deported.
Under Article 39 of the Cyber Crime statute, it is banned for any website owner or group admin to keep, conceal, provide, and disseminate any illegal content. Even if group admins are aware of it, failing to take appropriate action might result in them being held accountable.
The UAE has some of the toughest anti-defamation and cybercrime laws in the world. Several expatriates have been deported as a result of nasty Islamophobic statements or social media posts. In terms of defamation via electronic media, the UAE has a zero-tolerance policy and a highly rigorous code of behavior.
So, let's be clear: "No one in the UAE has the right to abuse you, even on social media."

What does Defamation by electronic means?

Electronic defamation is a type of defamation that takes place through the internet. In addition to social media, any defamatory statements published on websites, forums, WhatsApp, SMS, or emails may be prosecuted under Article 20 of the Cybercrime Act. Assume that someone uses the office space, network, or gadget to make defamatory claims and is charged with a crime. In that instance, the employer may be forced to participate in the legal proceedings. It makes no difference whether the issue arose because of the accused's employment or because the employer's name or brand was implicated. As a sponsor, the employer will be held responsible for some of the crime's repercussions.
Police may need access to business computers throughout the investigation. If the gadget was used to perpetrate the crime, it is possible that it will be confiscated. Cybercrime legislation also allows for the permanent or temporary deletion of material and the shutdown of the offending website at the Court's discretion, depending on the seriousness of the offense.

Verbal Abuse Law in the UAE

Using insulting words or any sort of verbal abuse, regardless of a person's nationality, is a criminal offense in the UAE. In the UAE, the 'F' word, which you may use freely in your own country, might land you in legal trouble. According to Article 373 of the Penal Code No. 3 of 1987.

  • Anyone who disrespects the honor or modesty of another by any means shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding AED 10,000.
  • If a public official or one in charge of public service is abused during, because of, or on the occasion of performing his duty or public service, if the abuse affects the honor or reputation of families, or if it is discovered that the abuse is intended to achieve an illegal purpose, punishment by detention for a period not exceeding two years and a fine not exceeding AED 20,000 or either of these two shall be imposed.
  • If the abuse is published in a newspaper or other type of print media, it is deemed an aggravated instance.

Article 374 of the same Penal Code reads as follows:

  • If the slander or abuse is sent by telephone or directly to the victim in the presence of a third person, detention for not more than six months or a fine of not more than AED 5,000 will be imposed.
  • If the defamation or abuse happens when the victim is alone, a punishment of not more than AED 5,000 will be imposed. It can be done in person or by any type of messaging.
  • When slander or abuse is perpetrated against a public official or someone in charge of a public service during, because of, or on the occasion of executing the duty or public service, it is deemed an aggravated case. It is also deemed an aggravated case if it undermines the honor or reputation of families, or if it is discovered that it serves an unlawful aim.

How to file a defamation case in the UAE?

In the UAE, any defamation and insulting legislation violations are handled strictly. The law has outlined the legal options open to someone whose reputation has been slandered by another. Anyone who wants to register a complaint should start with the police and work their way up to public prosecution. Any victim of defamation has the right to file a police report within three months of becoming aware of the offense.

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