Jail term for man who insulted UAE on Facebook
A man who insulted the UAE on social media has received three years in prison for the offence, The National reported.
Mohammed Ashour, a 38 year old Palestinian man, was fined AED50,000 and given a three-year jail term. He will be deported after his sentence. According to reports, The Federal Supreme Court found him guilty of creating a Facebook page that causes damage to the UAE’s reputation.
The UAE’s cybercrime laws prohibit all forms of online abuse. This is not the first time that people have landed themselves in trouble for posting defamatory comments on social networking sites.
Mr Ashour pleaded not guilty in his defence hearing late last year, claiming that the comments were made during private interactions over Facebook. Speaking to Judge Mohammed Al Jarrah Al Tenaiji, he said: What happened was a conversation between two users. I never created a website. It was a personal online page on a social media network.”
As per the UAE Cybercrime Law No5, which was created in 2012, all forms of online abuse are a criminal offence, and sentences can result in a fine of between AED50,000 and AED3 million, as well as a prison term of up to life in jail.
Rulings like this lead many to question whether insults are illegal on private social media pages. While the answer is complicated, due to the many variations of privacy settings, the simple answer is, they could be. An earlier case saw the Dubai Court of Cassation overturn an acquittal, where someone had posted personal insults on a private Facebook page.
According to prosecutors, article 20 of the decree by a federal law no 5 of 2012 stresses that insults on social networking sites, or any forms of IT device, should be punished as they can go viral quickly, causing huge amounts of damage to a person’s reputation. Nabil Ahmed Rashid Al Khadim, an appeals chief prosecutor, said that the defendant should be punished under this law, which would mean he can be jailed or ordered to pay a fine of up to AED500,000.
He said: “Even if the Facebook page is not accessible to general public, posting derogatory comments defames a person and damages his or her reputation.”
In short, if you’re thinking about posting something abusing online… don’t.