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Social Media Defamation in UAE: Be Aware

Defaming an Individual on Social Media is a criminal offence in the UAE.

Article 373 of the Federal Law No.3 of 1987 on issuance of the Penal Code (the ‘Penal Law’), states the punishment for such actions.

Detention for a period not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding Dh10,000 shall be imposed on anyone who, by any means of publicity, disgraces the honor or the modesty of another person without attributing any particular act to the defamed party”.

Detention for a period not exceeding two years and a fine not exceeding Dh20,000 or either of these two penalties, shall apply if a public official or one who is in charge of a public service has been abused during, because of, or while performing his duty; if the abuse affects the honor or injures the reputation of families; or if it is noticed that it is intended to achieve an illegal purpose.”

In the event that the abuse is published in any newspaper or printed media, it shall be considered an aggravated case.”

Hence, owing to the aforementioned provision of the law, messages considered defamatory on social media can be printed and therefore considered an aggravated criminal case.

In addition, an acquaintance may also be held responsible if such defamatory messages are transmitted using the telephone (mobile phone). Article 374 of the Penal Law of the UAE, prescribes “Punishment by detention for a period not exceeding six months or fine not exceeding Dh5,000 shall apply if slander or abuse is transmitted by telephone, or face to face with the victim and in the presence of a third party.”

Furthermore, defaming any individual through a computer network or electronic means is a crime under the Cyber Law of the country. Article 21 of the Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes (the ‘Cyber Law’), states the punishment as follows;

“…Shall also be punished by imprisonment for a period of at least one year and a fine not less than Dh250,000 and not in excess of Dh500,000 or either of these two penalties whoever uses an electronic information system or any information technology means for amending or processing a record, photo or scene for the purpose of defamation of or offending another person or for attacking or invading his privacy.”

In this light, anyone who has been a victim of Social Media Defamation may lodge a criminal complaint with the public prosecutor or the police station having jurisdiction against the dafamator. To kick-start the process, the public prosecutor will require Arabic translation of the documentary evidence you will provide with your complaint such as messages posted by the defamator against you on the social media platform. If the public prosecutor is satisfied that a crime has been committed by the person, the complaint will be investigated and registered against the person.

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