The latest in a string of cases of people arrested because of something they wrote and posted on Facebook reguards Jodi Magi, an Australian woman who has been jailed in the Emirate city after having published a controversial status message. Apparently, she was arrested and jailed in Abu Dhabi, UAE, for “writing bad words on social media,” the ABC’s PM program on Monday night reported.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, (SMH), “Jodi Magi, aged 39, posted a photo to Facebook of a car parked across two disabled parking spaces outside her apartment in Abu Dhabi,” where she lives. SMH told that despite Magi having blanked out the license plate number before publishing the message and photo, which rid any identifiable info and details of the car owner, nonetheless, a complaint was filed that landed Ms. Magi in an Abu Dhabi court. Waiting her trial date, she has already been found guilty of ‘writing bad words on social media about a person,’ and told she would be deported by Abu Dhabi authorities after the legal proceedings.
Drewery Dyke, a member of Amnesty International’s UAE team, said Magi will be prosecuted in relation to Article 21 of the 2012 Cyber Crime law, which specifically forbids using “a computer network or and electronic information system or any information technology means for the invasion of privacy of another person” as well as for “amending or processing a record, photo or scene for the purpose of defamation of or offending another person or for attacking or invading his privacy“.
Magi told the ABC she was unaware she could be charged; she did not know that defamatory statements under the UAE law can lead to arrest. She was also charged a $3600 fine.
The incident reminds a similar case involving an American Arrested in UAE for Defamatory Facebook Post, who was sent to jail by Abu Dhabi police for an offending Facebook post. The American was helped by the U.S. Embassy and removed from Abu Dhabi authorities; whereas, “Ms Magi said the local Australian embassy had provided no assistance to her, other than to recommend she get a lawyer,” the SMH told.
Nicholas McGeehan, Human Rights Watch researcher on the UAE, meanwhile, “also urged action on the part of the Australian government and people over the case,” in order for “Emiratis to sit up and take notice” of the situation that Magi got herself into. She has been living in Abu Dhabi since 2012 where she has been teaching local Emirati women graphic design.
As mentioned in the SMH report, “It is not known precisely what charges Ms Magi faces in the UAE,” but one thing is certain and that is Facebook offenders are being arrested and bailed for what they do online, which is causing some distress to members of the public.
It is believed that many people exercise poor judgement on Facebook, a site where Freedom of Speech, as well as freedom of expression, may not always apply. Regardless of what one thinks about the right to jail someone for being offensive on Facebook (or Twitter for that matter), it is important to be always aware of local laws and abide by the rules.