What do we mean by defamation?
Defamation refers to the act of making false and harmful statements about an individual or entity that damage their reputation. It involves the publication or communication of statements that are untrue, derogatory, or damaging to a person’s character, integrity, or professional standing. Defamation can occur through various means, including spoken or written words, online platforms such as social media, newspapers, books, magazines, or any other medium that disseminates information to the public.
In legal terms, defamation typically encompasses two forms: slander and libel. Both forms of defamation can lead to legal consequences if they meet certain criteria, such as being false, harmful, and communicated to a third party.
It is essential to note that freedom of speech does not grant individuals the right to engage in defamation. Defamation laws aim to strike a balance between protecting an individual’s reputation and safeguarding the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Banners, cartoons, photographs, and even the public display of statues can constitute forms of expression that may potentially give rise to defamation claims.
What do we mean by Slander and what is the difference between it and defamation?
Slander is a specific form of defamation that involves the making of false and damaging statements about an individual or organization through verbal communication. It refers to the act of conveying false information as if it were true, with the intention of harming the reputation of the target.
According to the Penal Code, specifically the provisions of Federal Decree-Law No. (4) of 2019 amending certain provisions of Federal Law No. (3) of 1987, which came into effect on March 01, 2020, defamation is defined as the public attribution of a specific incident. It is considered a deliberate criminal offense and falls under the category of offenses against honor. The perpetrator of defamation aims to harm the emotions, dignity, and social standing of another individual. Accusing someone of engaging in outrageous behavior constitutes a specific incident that, if proven to be true, can result in administrative, disciplinary, or criminal penalties, as well as public contempt and belittlement in front of their family, peers, and society.
The punishment for Insulting or Defamation Offenses in the UAE law
Insulting someone through language involves using derogatory expressions or labeling that diminishes the person’s dignity or tarnishes their reputation. On the other hand, defamation entails attributing a criminal act to someone, with the law specifying a corresponding penalty. These acts can occur through various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, among others.
Regarding public insult, the punishment is regulated by the Federal Penal Code as amended by Law No. 4 of 2019. According to Article 373 of the Code, the offense can result in imprisonment for a maximum period of two years or a fine not exceeding twenty thousand dirhams.
It is important to note that if more than three months have passed since the victim became aware of the crime and identified the perpetrator, their claim of defamation may not be accepted. This is due to the provision outlined in Article 10, second paragraph, of the Federal Criminal Procedures Law, which states that a delay in filing a complaint can result in the forfeiture of the plaintiff’s right to pursue legal action.
Punishment for Insult and Defamation in UAE Law
The UAE law takes a stringent approach to crimes against reputation, including defamation, insult, and disclosure of secrets, as outlined in Articles 372-374. The penalties for individuals charged with contempt and insult through any means of public communication are as follows:
- A fine of up to twenty thousand dirhams.
- Imprisonment for a maximum of two years.
- Deportation of foreign nationals convicted of these offenses from the country.
In cases where individuals are charged with defaming others through public acts that affect honor and reputation, the prescribed punishment includes:
- Imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year.
- A fine not exceeding twenty thousand dirhams.
Moreover, anyone who insults a public government employee while the employee is carrying out their duties may face imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of up to fifty thousand dirhams.
The legislature has heightened the penalties when the offense occurs through electronic means, reflecting the need to address technology misuse. Electronic insults deliberately defame individuals, and due to the rapid spread and ease of circulation, controlling the content of an offensive post becomes challenging once it has been shared. This amplifies the damage caused compared to insults made in person, which may remain limited to a specific location and have a more contained impact.
In the case of defamation through electronic means, including social media, other digital platforms such as websites, forums, WhatsApp, SMS, or emails, the offender can be tried under Section 20 of the Cybercrime Law. If defamatory statements are made using office space, network, or devices, and a criminal complaint is filed, the employer may also become involved in the legal process. The employer’s participation is not dependent on the issue arising from the defendant’s employment or involving the employer’s name or brand. As a sponsor, the business owner may be subject to consequences resulting from the crime.
During investigations, law enforcement agencies may request access to desktop computers, and if the device was used to commit the offense, it may be seized. Based on the seriousness of the crime, the Cybercrime Law empowers the court to order the permanent or temporary deletion of information, closure of the offending website, as well as the confiscation and destruction of tools used in the commission of cybercrimes.
How to file a defamation case in the UAE?
To file a defamation case in the UAE, it is important to follow the legal procedures outlined by the law. Here is a step-by-step guide:
- Initiate at the police level: The first step is to file a complaint with the police station. The victim of defamation has the right to submit a complaint within three months of becoming aware of the crime.
- Proceed to the Public Prosecution Office: After filing the complaint at the police station, the case will be transferred to the Public Prosecution Office for further investigation and legal proceedings.
Key elements of the crime of insult and defamation in UAE law:
- Attribution: This refers to accusing another person of something that offends their honor or attributing a specific incident that harms their reputation. It can be expressed or published in various forms. The crimes of insult and defamation require proving both the disclosure and dissemination of the incident, i.e., publicizing it.
- Incident: The attribution must be linked to a specific incident, leaving no room for ambiguity. According to UAE law, the incident is considered specific if its place, time, and basic elements are specified. Specific historical facts attributed to a person, such as accusing someone of committing a known and documented crime against a known individual, qualify as a specific incident without the need to clarify the place and time.
- Defamation: This is a crucial element of the crimes of insult and defamation. While defamation was traditionally associated with publication in newspapers, radio, or television, in modern times, electronic defamation is also covered by the law. If insult or defamation occurs through public publication or on a public platform, it is considered defamation.
Defamation not punishable by law:
Article 261 of the Penal Code of 1970 outlines exceptions to defamation where the publisher is not subject to punishment. These exceptions include:
- Defamatory material published by the government or authorized in an official document.
- Defamatory material published in official reports exchanged between public officials during the performance of their duties.
- Publication during judicial proceedings by individuals involved, such as judges, witnesses, or the case team.
- Publication of true statements made, done, or shown during court proceedings, unless the court prohibits their publication due to corruption, immorality, or blasphemy.
- Publication of an authentic summary of previously published material, which is or can be excluded from liability according to the mentioned article.
- Publication compelled by law.
Our article sheds light on the precise, intricate, and significant nature of the subjects of insult, slander, and defamation.
Whether you find yourself unintentionally involved as an offender or a victim, it is crucial to seek the guidance and expertise of a professional lawyer. At FHS Law Firm and Legal Consultancy, we offer our clients the valuable assistance of experienced attorneys who thoroughly understand the nuances of such cases. We are committed to providing the necessary support and representing your interests in the most effective manner possible.
As a distinguished firm in the field, FHS Law Firm and Legal Consultancy is widely recognized for its excellence. We offer comprehensive legal services, catering to both individuals and companies, covering a wide range of legal matters and dispute resolution.
With our firm, you can expect a holistic approach to your legal needs, ensuring that all your requirements are addressed under one roof.
#Committed to delivering comprehensive legal solutions.