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The crime of libel under UAE Penal Code & its Punishment

United Arab Emirates constitution shapes social and cultural norms for the state’s evolution. Article 25 of the Constitution defines all citizens as equal before the law, explicitly forbidding discrimination and defamation on the basis of religion and social status and it establishes that those accused of breaking the law are to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Article 44 of the Constitution contains express provision that it is duty incumbent upon all the people living in the United Arab Emirates to respect and comply with Constitution, laws, orders issued by public authorities and maintain public morality at all times.

Act of libel in the United Arab Emirates can be enforced in two ways through the criminal justice system or via the civil courts. In a criminal case, the police or a prosecutor brings the charges and the accused faces either a fine or prison sentence as punishment. In a civil case, the plaintiff files a lawsuit against the defendant who can be liable for damages.

Under Penal law- Federal Law No (3) of 1987, Libel constitutes a criminal act and is subject to penalties. Libel is constituted by any act of publication either in newspapers or other printed media, slander transmitted by telephone, or face to face.

It is Libel if one writes a negative comment about an individual or a company, even if it is done anonymously through blogs, Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are covered. Even if somebody has been convicted of a crime, one can’t bad mouth him to others as that is an infringement on his honour and good name.

Libel through internet

Punishment for Libel

In accordance with Article 373 of Penal law, accused shall be sentenced to detention for a term not exceeding one year or to a fine not in excess of Ten thousand Dirham (AED 10,000) for any statement that affects honor or dignity of other person without attributing to him a specific fact.

If the insult is addressed to a Public Servant or a person in charge of a public service, during or because of the discharge of his duties or performing the public services, or if it affects honor or reputation of the families, or if expected to fulfill an illicit purpose the penalty shall be detention for a term not exceeding two years and a fine not in excess of twenty thousand Dirhams (AED 20,000), in both instances, or one of those two penalties.

In case the insult is done by means of publication in one by means of newspapers or printed material, this shall be considered an aggravating circumstance.

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