Defamation in the UAE is a criminal offence, as opposed to being a civil offence in some countries, and essentially means uttering false statements about a person which have the potential to damage that person’s reputation. In the UAE, defamation is referred to as “qazf”.

Defamation can be carried out in two ways – slander and libel. Slander is when a person utters false statements only verbally, and libel is when a person spreads defamatory statements through printing or publishing.


What is the punishment for defamation under the UAE Law?

Defamation is incorporated in Federal Decree-Law No. 31 of 2021, on the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law. Pursuant to Articles 425 and 426 of the law, defamation can be committed against a person in the following ways:

  1. Article 425: Publicly attributing statements to another person which may expose him to punishment or contempt of others. The punishment in this case is imprisonment for a maximum of two years or a fine reaching AED 20,000.
  2. Article 426: Publicly insulting another person without attributing any statement but still causing damage to his reputation. The punishment in this regard is imprisonment for up to a year, or fine of up to AED 20,000.

If the statements or insults are published in a newspaper or any other publication, it will amount to aggravating circumstances under Articles 425 and 426 of the Law.


What are the punishments if a person insults or publishes derogatory remarks against a public employee?

As stated above, defaming or insulting a person is an offence in the UAE, and when such person is a public official, the magnitude of the offence is increased. Consequently, the punishment for the same is also of a higher degree.

If the offence under Article 425 is committed against:

  1. A public official
  2. A person assigned to a public service

the person guilty of the offence will be liable to either jail sentence for almost 2 years, or a fine reaching AED 20,000, or may even be liable to both.

If the offence under Article 426 is committed against a public official, or a person assigned a public service, the punishment prescribed is the same as under Article 425 of the law, but the fine in such cases may start from AED 20,000, and go up to AED 50,000.


Are there any other ways through which the offence of defamation could be carried out?

Defamation can also be committed over a telephone, as mentioned under Article 427 of the law. The punishment in this case is imprisonment for 6 months, or a fine capped at AED 5,000. If the person defamed over the telephone is a public official in course of his duties, it will be considered as an aggravating circumstance.


Can I sue a person for defaming me over social media?

A person can be defamed in the UAE even through social media. Article 43 of Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021, on Combatting Rumours and Cybercrime, states that a person using information technology to insult someone or attribute events to him making him subject to contempt of others, will be liable to detention of almost five years, and may also face fine going up to AED 500,000. If the person defamed turns out to be a public employee performing his duties, it will be considered as an aggravating circumstance.

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