May 31, 2018

Emirati blogger gets ten years in prison for posting “false reports”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the ten-year jail sentence that Ahmed Mansoor, a well-known blogger and human rights defender, received yesterday from a court in the United Arab Emirates for criticizing its policies. RSF regards the sentence as absurd and disproportionate and calls for his immediate release.

The Abu Dhabi state security court dropped a charge of conspiring with a terrorist organisation but convicted Ahmed Mansoor of insulting the “status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols” and of seeking to damage the UAE’s relationship with its neighbours by posting “false reports” on social networks, pro-government newspapers reported.

As well as giving him a ten-year jail sentence, the court fined him 1 million dirhams (233,000 euros) and ordered placed under surveillance for three years after his release from prison.

“Such a harsh sentence is utterly absurd and disproportionate,” said Sophie Anmuth, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Ahmed Mansoor just shared information. If the authorities did not like this information, it is the reality that must change. Jailing the messenger is an absurd reaction worthy of the worst, the most authoritarian police states, and yet the UAE boasts of its modernity. Mansoor should not be in prison. He should be freed at once.”

Arrested in March 2017, Mansoor spent more than a year in pre-trial detention before his trial finally began. A prominent government critic, he was previously sentenced to three years in prison in 2011 for “using the Internet to insult the UAE and its leaders.” He was pardoned the same year but was banned from leaving the country.

A journalist and two citizen-journalists are currently imprisoned in the UAE, which is ranked 128th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.