The act of accusing someone of a crime or infraction in a way that harms their reputation, honor, or dignity is described as defamation under UAE law. It can also refer to the act of publishing or spreading false material about someone in order to ruin their reputation. In the UAE, defamation is a criminal offense that can attract criminal sanctions such as fines and imprisonment. The rules against defamation in the UAE have been designed to include and protect against such acts. Types of defamation can be classified into two: Slander and Libel 1.
Slander includes untrue statements told to others as though they were true often due to hatred or anger. Telling a spouse false stories with an intention to harm his relationship or Spreading rumors about an employee so as to bring down their credibility in their workplace. Libel is the act of spreading defamatory statements via media and in written form.
There are three elements to constitute Defamation: a false statement is made, the statement was done in the presence of a third party, and the statement/act has caused harm to any extent. On 2 January 2022, important changes to UAE law concerning defamation and cybercrimes took effect, namely Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 Concerning the Fight Against Rumours and Cybercrime (the Cybercrimes Law) and Federal Decree-Law No. 31/2021 On the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law (the Penal Code).
Article 425 states that any false or fabricated fact spread publicly to bring hatred or contempt to the defamed person will result in imprisonment of 2 years and/or a fine of up to AED 20,000/. Article 426 deals with insulting someone publicly in a way that may injure the victim’s honour or dignity. The court of Cassation has held that defamatory statements are made with the intention to expose Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 Concerning the Fight against Rumours and Cybercrime (the Cybercrimes Law) introduces an offence to insult others or attribute to them an incident that may make them subject to punishment or contempt by others using a computer network or any information technology means.
It also introduces a new offence for spreading rumours or fake news via digital means if this provokes public opinion against a state authority or if committed at a sensitive time. Article 44 further clarifies that it remains an offence to record or photograph someone without their consent, or copying and distributing the same.