Using ‘F’ Word Could Lead to Jail in UAE: How to Defend Against Slander and Libel?

Everything you need to know about defamation laws in the UAE

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Pavitra Shetty

Published on May 20, 2024, 11:27:57


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Defamation involves making false statements that harm someone's reputation, whether through spoken or written words or images. In the UAE, defamation is a serious legal issue, with specific laws governing it.

Defamation laws in the UAE encompass a broad range of scenarios, including accusations against public officials or statements deemed religiously offensive. Moreover, recent legislation extends defamation laws to cover online platforms.

This means that defamatory statements made on social media or other digital platforms can also lead to legal consequences. It is a serious legal offense, and anyone found guilty of defamation could face fines and imprisonment.

Staying informed about defamation laws is essential to prevent unintentional violations and potential legal consequences in the UAE. If you feel defamed, it's important to know your rights.

Here is a detailed analysis covering everything you need to know about defamation.

Types of Defamation

Defamation is categorised into two main types: Slander and Libel.

Slander: This involves untrue statements told to others as though they were true, often due to hatred or anger. Examples include telling a spouse false stories to harm their relationship or spreading rumours about an employee to undermine their credibility at work.

Libel: This involves spreading defamatory statements via media and in written form.


Defamation can result in imprisonment of up to two years and/or fines. The UAE courts distinguish defamatory statements from mere criticism using the "normal limits" test.

Defamation involves targeting someone with false charges to harm their reputation. Defamation is considered a criminal offense in the UAE.

Defamatory remarks on social media invoke cybercrime laws, and defaming a public officer incurs harsher penalties. Religiously offensive or seditious statements are treated severely.

Elements of Defamation

To constitute defamation, three elements must be present:

  • A false statement is made.
  • The statement was made in the presence of a third party.
  • The statement or act caused harm to any extent.

Articles About Defamation

On January 2, 2022, significant changes to UAE law concerning defamation and cybercrimes took effect under:

  • Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 Concerning the Fight Against Rumours and Cybercrime (the Cybercrimes Law).
  • Federal Decree-Law No. 31/2021 On the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law (the Penal Code)
  • Article 425 of Federal Decree-Law No. 31/2021 states: Any false or fabricated fact spread publicly to bring hatred or contempt to the defamed person can result in imprisonment of two years and/or a fine of up to Dh20,000.
  • Article 426 of Federal Decree-Law No. 31/2021 deals with insulting someone publicly in a way that may injure the victim’s honor or dignity.
  • Article 44 of Federal Decree-Law No. 31/2021 states: It remains an offense to record or photograph someone without their consent, or to copy and distribute the same.

Social Media and Cybercrime

The UAE has introduced Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 (Cybercrime Law) to address cybercrime, rumours and fake news. This law replaces the previous cybercrime legislation and provides punishments for various types of cyberbullying offenses.

Extortion, insults, unauthorised sharing of personal photos or videos and social media defamation are among the prevalent forms of cyberbullying covered by the law.

Under Article 20 of the Cybercrime Law, it is illegal to insult or put others in a situation where they may be punished via computer networks, electronic media, or social media. Penalties include imprisonment and fines ranging from Dh25,000 to Dh500,000. Deportation is common for foreigners.

The Cybercrimes Law Introduces Offenses For:

  • Insulting others or attributing to them an incident that may subject them to punishment or contempt using a computer network or any information technology means.
  • 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 39 of the Cybercrime Law prohibits website owners or group admins from retaining, concealing, providing, or disseminating illegal content. Failure to act on known defamatory content can lead to accountability.

Electronic Defamation

Electronic defamation includes defamatory statements on websites, forums, WhatsApp, SMS, or emails. If the defamation occurs using an employer's network or devices, the employer may be involved in legal proceedings.

Employers might be held responsible for some crime repercussions as sponsors. Investigations may require police access to business computers, with potential confiscation of devices used in the crime.

The Cybercrime Law also allows for the deletion of material and shutdown of offending websites at the court's discretion.

Verbal Abuse

Using insulting words or verbal abuse, regardless of nationality, is a criminal offense in the UAE. For example, the 'F' word can result in legal trouble. Under Article 373 of Penal Code No. 3 of 1987, insults affecting honour or modesty can lead to imprisonment or fines.

Higher penalties apply if the abuse targets public officials, affects family honor, or serves illegal purposes. Insults via print media are considered aggravated cases.

Filing a Defamation Case

Defamation cases are handled strictly in the UAE. Victims can file a complaint starting with the police and moving to public prosecution. Complaints must be filed within three months of becoming aware of the offense.

For any enquiries or information, contact ask@tlr.ae or call us on +971 52 644 3004Follow The Law Reporters on WhatsApp Channels.