UAE cracks down on online dissent through stringent Internet laws
The United Arab Emirates has tightened its law on Internet use, making it a criminal offence to mock its rulers or organize unauthorized demonstrations.
A presidential decree said that anyone who creates or runs a website or uses the Internet to deride or damage the state or its institutions faces imprisonment.
The institutions include the rulers and senior officials across the federation of seven semi-autonomous Gulf emirates.
The amendments to the UAE's existing law on Internet crime were announced on Tuesday in a decree by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nuhayyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi.
Many of the measures focus on issues such as online fraud, privacy protection, and efforts to combat prostitution, pornography and gambling.
However, a major section imposes restrictions on online dissent.
The legislation now stipulates that 'penalties of imprisonment on any person who creates or runs an electronic website or uses any information technology medium to deride or damage the reputation or stature of the state or any of its institutions'.
The minimum prison sentence will be three years and foreign nationals will meanwhile be deported, the BBC reports.
According to the report, the institutions which cannot be derided include the president, vice-president, any of the rulers of the seven emirates, their crown princes and deputy rulers, as well as the national flag, national anthem, or any of symbols of the state.
The law also prohibits 'information, news, caricatures or any other kind of pictures' that authorities believe could threaten security or 'public order'.