WJWC: UAE’s new laws perpetuate repression and undermine freedom of expression

WJWC: UAE’s new laws perpetuate repression and undermine freedom of expression

The UAE seemingly uses terms like tolerance and happiness as a cover to hide major violations of freedom of opinion and expression, as it is still holding scores of detainees even after the completion of their sentences for reasons related to their natural right to freedom of opinion and expression. 

International demands for the UAE to respect freedom of opinion and expression are met with further restrictions on rights and freedoms by passing new laws or amending the existing ones like the recent anti-rumour and cybercrime law", which came into force in January 2022.This law is severely restrictive, posing a serious threat to human rights and the right to freedom of expression.

The UAE’s violation of human rights is not limited to the notorious laws designed to repress those expressing their opinions and criticizing the government, but extends to preventing access to news websites and human rights organizations, including but not limited to more than 30 websites like Middle East Eye, Noon Post and the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper in Arabic and English, as well as local opposition websites issued from abroad like Emirates 71 and Emirates Center for Studies and Media.

The WJWC founder, Tawakkol Karman, has said that the UAE uses its high and shiny towers to hide a dark record of human rights, and holds scores of people in detention under poor conditions, including the winner of the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders Ahmed Mansour, Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, Dr. Muhammad al-Roken, and Dr. Muhammad al-Mansoori, in addition to a large number of Journalists, media professionals and writers.

The UAE presents itself as a country tolerant of religions and sects, added Tawakkol Karman, pointing out that this is nothing but a poor attempt to improve its ugly image because it does not tolerate its citizens and residents on its soil, and criminalizes any criticism of the authority, no matter how simple.

“We in the WJWC are in pain because some countries turn a blind eye to the violations, including torture, harsh prison sentences and heavy fines, by the UAE authorities against their citizens and residents,” continued Mrs. Karman.

The UAE does not get enough of punishing those who express their opinions within its territory, but also works to pursue and spy on journalists outside its borders, as evidenced by the Pegasus project that revealed in July 2021 that the UAE is among the clients of Israeli spyware company NSO Group, which facilitated illegally monitoring scores of journalists, activists and politicians around the world.

The Women Journalists Without Chains has called on the UAE to stop the crackdown on public freedoms, release prisoners of conscience, abolish the new Penal Code, the Cybercrime Law, and all laws that conflict with international standards, and with Article 30 of the UAE Constitution, whereby freedom of opinion and expressing it verbally or in writing or by other means shall be guaranteed within the limits of the law.

All these violations have placed the UAE at the bottom of the 2022 Press Freedom Index, and among the top 10 worst countries for Internet freedom & censorship, according to data and reports by Freedom House serving as a clear voice for democracy and freedoms around the world.

The WJWC urges the UAE authorities to:

-suspend enforcement of notorious laws that criminalize the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;

- immediately and unconditionally release political prisoners who have been detained and prosecuted for exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and until then the UAE authorities is obligated to preserve their integrity;

- immediately and unconditionally release 48 detainees whose sentences have expired and the authorities are still holding them in centers called “counseling centers”, which are, in fact, new prisons with no specific ceiling for the arbitrary detention period; most of them were arrested and tried on political charges based on tweets and articles posted on the Internet;

-grant UN Special Rapporteurs access to detainees to visit them and learn about their detention conditions.

Issued by:

Women Journalists Without Chains

October 24, 2022

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