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Defamation on social media: What UAE law says


DUBAI – In the UAE, posting defamatory comments on social media is no different to publishing defamatory content in books or magazines.

Defamation is a criminal offence here. However, the informal nature of social media can catch people off guard and some people post comments that can put them in serious trouble.

“We all have the freedom to voice our thoughts. However, the UAE government has set out certain restrictions for the freedom of speech, violating which will land you in trouble. There must be a balance between the right to protect one’s personal status and the freedom of speech one can enjoy,” Abdulla U.C., legal consultant of FranGulf Legal and Business Consultants, told

What is defamation? It is a statement made to a third party, which has caused or is likely to cause damage to their reputation.

A criminal complaint can be filed for defamation against an individual or organization under the UAE law.

“Undoubtedly, the criminal laws of the UAE are so stringent and vigorous that any anonymous comment on any social media platform will open gates for various criminal charges against the alleged,” said Abdulla of FranGulf Legal and Business Consultants.

The UAE government has developed technical systems to ascertain and scrap out the details of individuals hiding behind their screens to defame innocent people.

“Lately, we have witnessed an enormous growth in defamatory cases against individuals, known or unknown in our region, mostly online. The users who post defamatory comments against another person on any social media platform may find that they breach the UAE laws,” Abdulla said.

Defamation can be categorised as libel or slander, FranGulf Legal and Business Consultants explained.

Libel refers to defamatory accusations in the permanent form. Any defamatory statement in writing and made against another person will constitute the offence of libel. Libel is not limited to writing. Defamation caused due to signboards, cartoons, photographs, even the display of statues can be constituted to libel.

Slander refers to abusive words made in temporary or momentary form, which normally is challenging to be proven. If the statement of abuse is published in newspaper or any printed media, it shall be considered as aggressive circumstance.

There are three elements which the claimant should prove to sue anyone for defamation: The defamation should be referred to the claimant, the matter of the complaint should be defamatory, and the defamatory statement should be published.

Privacy and confidentiality in UAE

The importance of the sanctity of the individual’s private life is recognized in several provisions of the UAE law. Disclosing secrets relating to someone’s private life, without that person’s consent, can attract liability under the Penal Code and the Cyber Crimes Law, according to FranGulf Legal and Business Consultants.

Similarly, the disclosure of confidential information, such as information belonging to an employer, can also attract legal liability in the UAE.

Under the UAE law, “whoever attributes to another person by any means of publicity, an instance, which makes him liable to punishment or contempt, shall be punished by detention for a period not exceeding two years or by a fine not exceeding Dh20,000”.

Also, according to the law, a detention not exceeding one year and a fine of Dh10,000 shall be imposed on any person who disgraces the honor or modesty of another person without amounting to any charges against that person. ICA/Expat Media

FranGulf Legal and Business Consultants has offices across the UAE with experts to assist investors in protecting their businesss in the UAE. Email, call +971 585597700 or get in touch via Facebook or Instagram.

Expat Media readers get a free 30-minute legal consultation with FranGulf Legal and Business Consultants. Just send a message to starting with the words “Need FranGulf help” plus your name and mobile number. Slots are limited.

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