The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has set stricter Internet monitoring and enforcement codes that include giving authorities wider leeway to crack down on Web activists for offenses such as mocking the country’s rulers or calling for demonstrations, local media have reported.
Under the new UAE law, which was posted on the official news agency WAM on Tuesday, any posts “to deride or to damage the reputation or the stature of the state or any of its institutions,” are punishable by a prison sentence.
The codes also outlaw “information, news, caricatures or any other kind of pictures” that authorities believe could threaten security or “public order.” These include Web posts calling for public protests or “disobeying the laws and regulations of the state.”
Also under the new law, anyone convicted of “creating or running websites that deride or damage the reputation or stature of the rulers will face a minimum jail sentence of three years,” The National, an English-Language daily, said.
This includes the president, the vice president, rulers, deputy rulers and crown princes of the emirates.
Although oil-rich UAE has been spared the wave of uprisings that hit most Arab countries, the authorities have clamped down on Islamists and claimed in July to have dismantled a group plotting against state security.
Several of those arrested had been active on online social media networks.
The United Arab Emirates has come under criticism over arrests and a trail of human rights violations.
A European Union resolution last month condemned “harassment,” “restrictions on freedom of expression” and “illegal imprisonment” suffered by pro-democracy activists in the UAE, and demanded the “unconditional release of
prisoners of conscience,” which it says number 64.
The Gulf state dismissed the accusations as unfounded.