An expat who tweeted comments that were deemed insulting and abusive to an Abu Dhabi woman was fined Dh250,000 for defamation and misuse of the internet.
The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance handed down the sentence to the Arab man after he was found guilty of defamation and violating cybercrime laws of the UAE. The court had found that the man's tweets, which targeted the Arab woman, were defamatory and undermined the victim's reputation. The comments used in the tweets were however not mentioned in court.
Official court documents stated that authorities took legal action against the man after the woman complained to them that the man wrote abusive and insulting comments against her on his Twitter account.
The woman said to prosecutors that the tweets in which the defendant tagged many people attracted several reactions from the public. She said that this undermined her reputation in the society.
The accused had apologised to the complainant after being summoned by Department of Cybercrimes stressing that he didn't mean to insult her in the tweets. The woman allegedly forgave him but advised him to attend court hearings as prosecutors had already taken legal action.
Prosecutors charged the man with defamation and violating cybercrime law. The man, however, failed to appear in court to defend himself throughout the trial despite being served with court summon. This prompted the judge to issue a ruling and a fine sentence in his absence.
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Know the law
The UAE Cybercrime Law No: 5 of 2012, stipulates penalties like jail terms that could go up to a life sentence and/or a fine ranging between Dh50,000 and Dh2 million depending on the severity and seriousness of the cybercrime.
Cybercrimes of the past
The UAE authorities have always warned people against the misuse of social media to avoid being charged with cybercrimes as many people were being jailed, fined and even ordered to leave the country because they had insulted people or even their spouse on messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Twitter.
In January 2018, an Arab woman accused of posting indecent videos on various social media sites including Twitter, Snap Chat and Instagram was jailed for a year and fined Dh250,000. The Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi handed down the sentence to the woman after she was found guilty of spreading video clips that violated public morals and promoted obscenity.
Also in January, an unmarried couple was each jailed for a year by the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi after they were convicted of beautifying the sin for sitting together alone and in a closed place and later sharing their intimate photos with friends on Instagram and WhatsApp.
Also this year, an Arab man was sentenced to three years in jail after he was found guilty of blackmailing a woman by threatening to publish pictures of her on social media if she didn't give him Dh100,000. An Abu Dhabi Court heard that the expat had sent threatening messages to the mobile phone of the Emirati victim's mother through Whatsapp during last year's Ramadan.
Last year, an Emirati poet was given three months in jail and also fined Dh250,000 after he was found guilty of violating the cybercrime law by posting a poem that violated the society's norms and traditions on social media. The Federal Appeal Court also banned the writer, known as the "poet of the senses" (Shaa'ir Al Ahasees in Arabic) from using social media for a period of two years.
Social media do's and don'ts under UAE law
- Do not post other people's pictures or videos without consent: Don't post without asking, whether it's a friend or a photographer. It could be breach of privacy or copyright.
- Do not make threats: Posts or comments that are abusive or threatening to other people can land you in court.
- Do not post vulgar pictures or of alcohol: Non-Muslims can drink, but keep it under control if pictures are inappropriate. Drunken photos that offend Islamic values or morals of the UAE can lead to legal trouble. Do not post pornographic or material that contains nudity.
- Do not tag anyone without consent: TRA warns that tagging without permission can be a breach of defamation and privacy laws, both of which can carry hefty fines and even jail time.
- Do not insult Islam
- Do not gossip: People could face fines of up to Dh1 million if they spread false information.
- Do not bully or harass: Users must not post content which includes hate speech, incites violence or which is threatening or contains graphic or gratuitous violence.
Source: TRA, UAE
By Ismail Sebugwaawo
This article has been amended from its original source.