New UAE cybercrime law is thought to ‘threaten the right to free expression’

New UAE cybercrime law is thought to ‘threaten the right to free expression’

The new UAE 2021 Cybercrime Law is currently being challenged for impacting the right to free expression.

Rights groups say overly broad and vague terminology of the new law will provide authorities with the ability to criminalise and impose lengthy prison sentences, when individuals are exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

In a statement they said: “We, the undersigned organisations, are writing to express our deep concern regarding the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) recent adoption of a new Law on Combatting Rumours and Cybercrime, which severely threatens and unduly restricts the right to freedom of expression (both online and offline) and the rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly in the UAE.

“The new Cybercrime Law, went into effect on January 2, 2022, replacing the Emirates’ former Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combatting Cybercrime. However, the new text does not address the problematic provisions of its predecessor and, on the contrary, further restricts civic space and free speech within the UAE and maintains the criminalisation of acts that are protected under international law.”

They added: “We are concerned that the overbroad and vague terminology used, particularly on “national security” related issues, provide the authorities with excessive discretion to criminalise and impose lengthy prison sentences on individuals exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“The law further enables the criminalisation of the work of journalists, whistleblowers, activists and peaceful critics, subjecting those engaged in lawful activities to harsh prison sentences and excessive fines. As such, we call on the Emirati authorities to immediately repeal the law or sufficiently amend its provisions so that it is brought into line with international human rights standards.”



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