Unlike countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America wherein defamation is dealt with through civil lawsuits, insult and slander in the United Arab Emirates are considered a criminal offense. The majority of the population in the region consists of expatriates and the number of cases for defamation has increased significantly.
There are several major offenses under insult and slander that are outlined in the Federal Law 1987 No. 3. Article 372 contains the regulations on the publicity that exposes a victim to contempt and/or hatred from the general public. As for Article 373, it sets out the provisions in which an offender makes false accusations that result to the discrediting or dishonoring of the victim in the eye of the public.
For instance, with defamation, it includes the act of publishing defamatory remarks in any medium or form of media. For such, the situation was created intentionally therefore the offender gets a punishment of a 2-year sentence and a fine. For slander, if it is done in social media, through an electronic message, or in person with witnesses (third party), the offender will be punished with the detention of a maximum of 6 months. The offender may also be fined of a maximum of Dh5,000, as per the UAE Penal Code Article 374.
If a defamatory statement is published, a case must be filed no more than three months from when the statement was published. As soon as the criminal complaint is filed, the police will have to investigate the indication of slander or defamation. Once confirmed, the case will then be referred to the UAE Public Prosecutor. In the country, it is also considered as a crime to insult a religion even in social media. It is punishable by law with up to 7 years of imprisonment.
WhatsApp and Social Media in the UAE
- Defamatory comments are a crime as per the UAE Penal Code. When defamation or slander is committed electronically or over the internet, the Cyber Crime Law is applied and the penalties or punishment are even more severe.
- Individuals need to make sure that they know about the perils of insult and slander over WhatsApp and other avenues for communication, as well as with posting or making comments that may be considered as insulting or defamatory. People in UAE have to be aware as well that remarks made against public officials, public offers, religion, the country, or which that relate to the private lives of individuals, tend to result in extremely high penalties.
- Businesses have to amend and update internet usage policies and make sure they refer to the language used in social media. Companies in the UAE have to provide guidance and training to all employed on what are responsible and appropriate comments that can be published online.
- Owners and administrators of social media networks and websites allowed in the UAE have to put in place monitoring procedures that can ensure all illegal content and information are removed as soon as they are discovered.
If you want to know more about insult and slander, don't hesitate to reach out to our criminal lawyers in UAE for a consultation.