What does an action in Tort mean?
A tort in terms of common law can be defined as a civil wrong that has caused loss or harm to a person, resulting in legal liability. An action in tort means any claim for money damages based upon negligence, medical malpractice, intentional tort, nuisance, products liability and strict liability, and could also include any wrongful death or harm.
Free speech and defamation:
Free speech has its charms, but at the same time, it should be judiciously exercised, as it is never a complete right. This is especially so as quite often, there exists a thin veil of separation between what constitutes a fair comment and what, in fact, is defamatory.
More about defamation:
The defamation law, in fact, exists to ensure the delicate balance between fair speech and the misuse of the said right to make a malicious or slanderous statement that can cause harm to another. In this sense, ‘defamation’ can be defined as making and spreading false statements about a person of a nature that can cause harm to the reputation of such person (victim). It can be categorized into two types, which is i) slander and ii) libel. Simply put, ‘slander’ is a defamatory statement that is oral while ‘libel’ is a defamatory statement that is written.
Defamation crosses into the category of what can be termed as a complex law, as there is no one definite set of rules that can apply, and further, the quantum of proof required to show that there is damage to reputation is difficult, as reputation in itself has intangible characteristics.
Defamation under the UAE laws:
Article 372 Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 and its amendments (the UAE Penal Code) states that “Whoever attributes to another person, by any means of publicity, an incident which makes him liable to punishment or contempt, shall be punished by detention for a period not exceeding two years or by a fine not exceeding Dh20,000”.
Further, Article 20 of the Federal Decree by Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combating Cyber Crimes and its amendments (“Cyber Crimes Law”) states that, “Without prejudice to the provisions of slander crime prescribed in Islamic Sharia, any person who insults a third party or has attributed to him an incident that may make him subject to punishment or contempt by a third party, by using an Information Network or an Information Technology Tool shall be punished by imprisonment and a fine not less than (AED 250,000) and not exceeding (AED500,000) or by any of these punishments.
If the insult or slander took place against a public employee or a person assigned to public service by occasion or because of performing his work, this should be considered an aggravating circumstance of the crime.”
It is also very critical to note that the UAE laws deal with defamatory actions via an online medium such as the social media networks to be the same as if the defamation was committed through the printed medium of newspapers, magazines etc. Further, it is not permitted to issue any comments or writings criticizing either the government, government officials, police, or the royal families of the UAE, and the same constitutes a punishable offence. Similarly, there are very strict laws in place to ensure the protection of privacy and reputation of individuals, both citizens and residents alike, in the UAE.