Manama: A legal amendment that criminalises taking pictures of people killed or injured in accidents and disseminating them on social media without the consent of anyone representing them has been approved by the Qatari government.

The amendment to provisions in the 2004 Penal Law did not specify whether the ban was confined to traffic or accidents or included other mishaps or unfortunate events as well.

However, the amendments was warmly welcomed by lawyers who said that it would deter people who failed to respect the privacy of others and underestimated the extent of the psychological and social damage their pictures could cause to the victims or their families, Qatari daily Al Raya reported on Thursday.

“The amendment was introduced after several studies were conducted following complaints by people who said they were affected by the unwanted invasion of privacy,” lawyers said. “This new provision which updates the law following technological changes will help deter those who do not respect privacy.”

Abdul Rahman Al Jufairi, a lawyer, said that the legislation needed to be updated following the tremendous changes since it was enacted in 2004.

“There was a great need to keep up with the development of social media and the use of advanced smartphones,” he said, quoted by Al Raya. “The new provision will help protect people against the misuse of pictures and video clips and the subsequent spread of rumours and allegations. It is not a matter of personal freedom and the right to take pictures, but rather a matter of showing respect for victims and families who may not want to take personal matters to the social media.”

Al Juffaori added in some instances, young women and their families were shocked by the posting of pictures taken without their knowledge on social media.

“Such cases in which technology was misused often meant complex social problems and difficult situations for the women and their families,” he said.

Mohammad Al Shimmari, another lawyer, said that the family of a teenager had the shock of their lives when they learned about his death in an accident through a social media application.

“Last year, someone took the picture of the 17-year-old boy after he was killed in an accident and posted on the social media,” he said. “The message soon reached his family, causing them a huge shock. We now hope that the new provision will help with respecting the privacy of others,” he said.

An ambulance driver, Ali Al Yafii, said that rescuers were often hampered in their attempts to save lives by people who wanted to take pictures of the accident victims.

“Many onlookers would park their cars near the accident site and attempt to take pictures, making it very difficult for rescuers to reach the victims,” he said. “They are obsessed with exclusive pictures of the accident and of the victims in order to ensure they have more followers of their accounts. We do welcome the amendment because it will help us to do our job more easily and will help with respecting privacy,” he said.