Abu Dhabi: A UAE online magazine has been shut down for one month and ordered to pay Dh10,000 in damages for defamation, a court has ruled.
The Abu Dhabi Court of Appeals also upheld the lower court's ruling of a Dh20,000 fine against Hetta, the first UAE e-magazine, which was established in 1996.
The magazine's editor, Ahmad Mohammad Bin Gareeb, has been convicted and fined Dh20,000 in a case filed by the Abu Dhabi Media Company following online comments posted about an article published in the magazine.
The comments were considered by the complainant and the Public Prosecution as slander and defamation.
The case is based on an article published by the magazine in its issue No. 55 on May 4, 2009, under the title "Abu Dhabi TV: Emirate TV only in name", by Inas Borini, according to court records.
Abdul Hamid Al Komaiti, lawyer of the defendant, told Gulf News he will challenge the ruling before the Federal Supreme Court. He has 30 days to file with the court.
"The article criticised the way the emirate's TV channels are being administrated. It did not exceed the permitted criticism, but Abu Dhabi Media considered comments on the article ‘defaming' and filed a complaint to the Public Prosecution, which in turn decided to refer the case under number 8585 for the year 2009 to the court on June 14, 2009.
"The court fined the editor of Hetta Dh20,000 on September 7 and considered him responsible for comments posted on the website," he added.
Al Komaiti said shutting down media outlets violates freedom of press and freedom of expression.
"This does not match the UAE's effort to establish the value of freedom of expression and freedom of press, through the abolition of imprisonment in publication cases.
"It is essential to expand those rights to include comments posted by readers and visitors of websites, which are not written by journalists or website officials. Those comments show interaction of readers and visitors with published articles."
Al Komaiti said the case was not related to an article by the editor or the journalist, and was only about comments posted by readers, so the maximum treatment for these should have been to request the magazine or website manager to delete them.
There could also have been a request to publish a clarification in accordance with the right to respond, he added.
The huge number of comments on the article demonstrated the interest of visitors in the subject, and also demonstrated that it was hard for the web manager to carefully read all the comments.
He stressed that the complainant should have first requested the webmaster to publish a clarification, or even delete the comments, which is the trend in most countries around the world.
Instead, they directly resorted to criminal prosecution.