There have been many high-profile defamation cases related to social media in UAE headlines recently. UAE treats derogatory remarks on social media the same way as newspapers, books, or magazines. Furthermore, they come under the defamation law of UAE with more severe punishments. However, social media comments are more harmful because of their greater reach when compared to traditional means of information.
What is defamation in UAE?
Defamation is when someone makes a false statement against a person with the intention of destroying that person’s reputation. However, Defamation cases are usually difficult to hold in Court because of their intangible nature. There are two types of defamation:
Slander: Verbally making false statements due to hatred or anger is slander. For example, telling a false story about your co-worker stealing something, saying that someone has STDs, or spreading false stories about someone’s spouse are all slander.
Libel: Spreading false information through print media, sign boards, cartoons, and photographs is libel. Even the display of statues will come under libel.
Defamation Law in UAE
Defamation in UAE is a criminal offense. Articles 371 to 380 of Federal law state that you can file a criminal case for defamation against a person or organization, and they should avoid making any detrimental statement against the person or organization to whom the statement refers. However, the case must fulfill three criteria to classify as a defamation case:
- A statement was false or defamatory
- A third party heard the statement, either verbally or in writing
- The statement was harmful to the person
According to the Court of Cassation (highest Court), a statement is a defamatory statement if it causes humiliation, public contempt, or punishment to the person. Mere criticism also falls into defamation if it goes beyond a certain limit and harms the person’s honor.
The punishment for defamation is two years of jail time or a 20000AED fine. However, the punishment will become more severe if the victim is a public office holder or a person’s family honor is damaged.
Furthermore, defamation also includes contemptuous statements against a person’s religion, and this is a separate crime. Since defamation is illegal, there is no civil defamation action available under UAE law. The complaint might, however, apply for civil damages and demand payment.
Social media defamation in UAE
A lot of angry people are venting their frustration on social media nowadays. They might not take it seriously, but it might have harmful repercussions.
Article 20 of Cyber Crime law considers it an offense:
- To humiliate others and put them in positions where they risk punishment
- Using the internet and social media to defame people
In addition, the penalty for these crimes is jail time, a fine between AED 25,000 and AED 500,000, or deportation in case of foreigners.
Social media group admins may get in trouble for knowing, spreading, or not rectifying any defamatory comments or images in their groups. UAE takes Islamophobia very seriously.
This is important for social media users in UAE:
- Defamation on any social media platform or electronic media is a criminal offense tried under Cybercrime Law.
- Using social media is risky in UAE because of the defamation laws. So, choose your words carefully.
- Companies working in UAE should see the company rules and regulations related to internet usage and supply proper training and guidance to their employees about the defamation laws of the UAE.
- Digital media people should be vigilant against improper use of the internet and rectify the problem at once after discovering it.
Defamation by electronic means
Emails, WhatsApp messages, or SMS also come under Article 20 of the Cybercrime Law. The employer may also face charges and the legal process if their employee makes a defamatory statement on the internet. Police may investigate or even confiscate the device which was used to make the statement. In addition, the police might delete the information permanently on the instructions of the Court.
Verbal Abuse Law in UAE
The use of any derogatory language comes under verbal abuse. Your nationality does not matter, and the Court will try you under criminal charges. Even using the “F” word will get you in trouble.
Article 373 of the Penal code states that:
- Disrespecting someone’s honor and modesty may result in detention for a maximum of one year or a fine not exceeding 10000AED.
- If defamation affects a public office holder’s honor and reputation, they will get detention for a maximum of two years or a fine not exceeding 20000AED.
- Publishing abuse in newspapers or print media is aggravated defamation.
Article 374 states that:
- If someone abuses and slanders someone over the telephone in the presence of a third party, detention for a maximum of six months or a fine not exceeding 5000AED is applicable.
- If someone abuses and slanders someone when the victim is alone, sent through a message or face-to-face with the offender, a fine not exceeding 5000AED is applicable.
- It is an aggravated case if defamation affects a public office holder’s honor and reputation.
How to file a defamation case in UAE?
UAE takes defamation laws very seriously. A person seeking justice has a proper legal procedure. The victim can file a complaint with the police and move toward prosecution in the Court of law. The victim must submit the complaint within three months from when the crime took place.
How to file a complaint against the accused?
- You can register your complaint with Dubai Police online portal or through the mobile app.
- Go to the nearest police station or call the number 999
- You can also file a complaint against your employer with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization
If the complaint fulfills all the requirements of a defamation case, the police may file a case against the offender. The public prosecutor will oversee the case. The prosecutor has 48 hours since the filing of the complaint to interrogate the accused. If the victim win’s the case, they can claim compensation for damages.
These cases are only tried in Court after all the criteria are fulfilled. Even if the defendant apologizes, the police take the apology as a confession. The defendant is then charged.
It is easy to convict in defamation cases. Most of the cases involve verbal abuse. We have successfully managed many defamation cases.