The ruling Sheikh's of the United Arab Emirates introduced laws preventing anyone from discussing affairs that may damage the reputation of the country or its ruling families. The application of the law is entirely at the discretion of the government and can include anything from discussions related to human rights improvements, judicial improvements, injustices, civil rights and goes so far as to prohibit sharing a charity on facebook or tweeting a news item that the BBC has reported, perhaps even sharing photos of "bad weather".
Ahmed Mansoor, an Emirati human rights lawyer, has just been jailed for ten years and handed a 1 million dirham fine for his participation in discussions related to judicial and political reforms in the UAE. This sentence is a clear message from the government to the people that anyone who does not pretend to be happy with everything going on in the UAE, will be jailed.
This sentence came after a stern warning was made to the population, that anyone who shares news related to the enforced disappearance of Princess Latifa, daughter of Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, will also face prison and a fine. The UAE seems to be the only country who is NOT reporting on the worldwide headlining news of Princess Latifa's attempted escape from the regime. Latifa was kidnapped from a US yacht in international waters near India on orders of the UAE, after activating allied India to assist. A militarised attack on the yacht was ordered to apprehend Latifa and her friends and illegally bring them back to the UAE. The United Nations and Human Rights watch have demanded answers, the whole world's media is reporting the incident but the UAE's own media can not report and the public face jail time if they even share an article. This is not the modern, tourist friendly country that Sheikh Mohammed has tried so hard to portray.
Detained in Dubai has handled a number of arrests under the UAE's draconian and broad spectrum Cybercrime laws that included some widely reported injustices: Scott Richards, a British/Australian national, was detained for sharing a charity page on facebook and British lawyer David Haigh, for an "offensive tweet". Australian Jodi Magi was deported for publishing a photo of a car parked in a disabled spot on social media, even though the number plate was obscured.
Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai said “Tourists and residents in the UAE are at extreme risk of being arrested under the country's cybercrime laws. Almost everyone who enters the country is already in breach of the law, based on the history of their social media feeds, whether or not they made the posts from outside of the UAE. The UAE's enforcers, scour social media looking for offenders to arrest, and the public are equally content to report offenders (or people they don't like) to the TRA. If attention is drawn to an offense, that person can be arrested and detained without charge. Any country whose laws allow for such abuse is a danger to all who enter the jurisdiction.
The fact that these laws were recently enacted shows that the UAE has no intention of becoming a liberal or modern country. The real UAE can be seen through its judicial and penal systems, where human rights violations are so common, that the UK refuses to extradite people there, despite having an existing treaty in place.
The UAE government is doing everything to try to preserve its reputation as a modern country and are trying to achieve this by instilling fear into the population and strict censorship to the point of jailing anyone who speaks up, including the daughter of the ruler of Dubai. Princess Latifa released a video testimony outlining the abuse and torture she suffered at the hands of her father, Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum and is believed to be in prison but the UAE has refused to answer the United Nations urgent request for information pertaining to her whereabouts and safety.The only way for the UAE government to progress is to actually make the required reforms and to ensure people's rights are preserved, that they are not wrongfully imprisoned and tortured. The UAE may have been able to censor its wrongdoings before, but now that they seek to be international players and a major tourism and trade hub, censorship does not cut it, only true change will. The UAE needs to repeal the cybercrime laws, allow productive free speech and release Ahmed Mansoor, Princess Latifa al Maktoum and all others currently jailed under the reputation damaging cybercrime laws. Nothing is more damaging to the reputation of the UAE than jailing and torturing those who speak their minds.
Until the UAE confront and address their backwards laws and practices, all of the hotels and malls in the world will not make it a safe place for foreigners to visit or invest in."