Just hours after being voted in as a Member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced new rules to curtail free online expression. UAE President Sheikh Khalifa published a decree that would not only take measures against online fraud, pornography, and gambling, but would also stipulate “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.” Web posts on behalf of unlicensed public demonstrations, as well as posts that "display contempt" for Islam or other religions, are also subject to punishment.
Significantly, the UNHRC unanimously approved a resolution upholding Internet freedom as a human right this summer. Also noteworthy, Dubai, a key city in the UAE, will host the World Conference on International Telecommunications in early December. A debate over Internet governance may unfold at this conference as some foreign governments, including China, Russia, India, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, have floated the idea of empowering the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as the regulator of the global online world.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations
Published: November 16, 2012