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UAE legal experts want libel to apply to social networking sites

Claiming that Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites can be used to spread rumors and false information, the legal community in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is seeking that libel laws be applied to offenders on the Internet. According to the news site Emirates 24|7, the issue was tackled in a seminar organized by the Dubai Judicial Institute on “Social media networks and how it is affecting UAE society." The report said the UAE could criminalize the misuse of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.  The Dubai Judicial Institute, a leading center of law studies in the UAE, led by its director Dr. Jamal Sumaiti, called on their legislators to amend the laws “to make it possible for third parties to take legal action in cases of libel through such websites.” Currently, only the victims of libel can pursue legal action in such cases. “Some people are taking undue advantage of the absence of UAE laws regulating electronic publishing but it is possible to use the general principles of law against such offenders,” Sumaiti told Emirates 24|7. He added that some articles published online incite the readers "to commit a crime,” warning about internet pranks that threaten public security. In the same report, newspaper editor Sami Al Riyami noted that networking sites “have become a fertile environment for spread of negative rumours and gossip.” If a libel law applying to social networking sites would be passed, the editor expects that negative use of social networking sites would subside in a span of three to five years.   A separate report of Emirates 24|7 said internet usage in the UAE was largely dominated by Facebook, with 90 percent of the respondents claiming to have an account in the social networking site.   Restrictions   According to the website, internet users are banned from posting or accessing websites having these contents: 
  • Anything contravening a fundamental principle or legislation, or infringing the sanctity of Islam, or breaching public decency;
  • Anything contrary to the state or its system;
  • Reports of news damaging to the Saudi Arabia armed forces, without the approval of competent authorities;
  • Anything damaging to the dignity of heads of states or heads of credited diplomatic missions in the kingdom, or that harms relations with those countries;
  • Any false information ascribed to state officials or those of private or public domestic institutions and bodies that may damage their integrity;
  • Subversive ideas or the disruption of public order or disputes among citizens; and
  • Any slanderous or libelous material against individuals.
  Pending cases   Early this year, health officials in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia started an investigation regarding video footage of “mixed race birthday party” in a government hospital there.  Some nurses in the controversy were believed to be Filipinos.    Weeks after that incident, another Asian household service worker faced the court for allegedly stealing her employer’s camera and posting the employer’s family pictures on her Facebook account. - VVP, GMA News