Why UAE jailed Nigerian woman for posting Nigerian travellers’ ordeal on Twitter

The woman was sentenced to one year imprisonment for allegedly violating the cyber crimes law of the UAE.

Reports say the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has sentenced a Nigerian woman to a one-year jail term for posting on social media, a video of how some Nigerian travellers were detained on arrival at Dubai International Airport.

What actually happened: On August 29, 2022, the woman, simply identified as @dunchichi on Twitter, had taken to her Twitter page to share a video of herself and some Nigerians being held up by the UAE immigration officials despite possessing valid visas.

The video captured the faces of the immigration officers who were being pressed by the Nigerian travellers who were curious to find out why they were being detained.

The caption on the video read; “I’m at Dubai international airport and myself and some tiger Nigerians with valid Visas are being held in a room hours after arriving with no explain and no information on what we can do. Please help me. There’s more than 20 of us.”

Nigerian govt reacts: Meanwhile, the Nigerian Mission in Dubai later came out to clarify why the Nigerian travellers were detained by the UAE officials.

A statement issued by the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Francisca Omayuli, stated that the stranded persons applied for and were issued family visas but arrived in Dubai alone.

The controversial sentencing: In what seemed like a twist in the plot, news broke on Friday, October 21, 2022, that @dunchichi had been handed a one-year jail term by the UAE authorities for an offence relating to her earlier post.

This was confirmed in a tweet on Saturday, October 22, 2022, by a user @jerrydoubles, who claimed to be @dunchichi’s relative.

His tweet read: “It is sad and regrettably heartrending to tell you all that @dunchichi was sentenced on 12th Oct 22, to 1yr in jail in Dubai. Her family are devastated and Nigeria didn’t save her. Cc @nidcom_gov @DavidHundeyin @FS_Yusuf_ @SavvyRinu @mrmacaronii @MobilePunch @daily_trust RT.

“Her sentence came from the backdrop that she got a family visa to travel. But in fact, she was there with her sister. It got messy & complicated, she was released on arrival after being detained for several hours, only to be sentenced when she was returning to Nigeria.

“They are capitalising on the fact that she made a video then posted them on her Twitter timeline to narrate the ordeal. They said it’s cybercrime in their country. She went ahead to delete it. Still, that didn’t soften them. Now she is jailed #justicefordinci.”

Is the UAE action justified?: Reading through the provisions of the UAE Cyber Crimes Law, it stipulates that taking pictures of a person and sharing same without their express permission constitutes a serious offence punishable by imprisonment and fine.

Section III of the law further stated that gossiping, spreading of rumour, ranting or sharing hate posts on social media could lead to serious punishment including jail term and fine.

The UAE law read: “#1 – Do not post people’s pictures without permission. You may be tempted to take pictures of strangers in a public park. This may not be a huge issue in other countries, but it is a serious offence here. Article 21 of Federal Law No. 5 of 2015 (or Cyber Crimes Law) states that “photographing others” without permission “shall be punished by imprisonment of a period of at least 6 months and a fine not less than AD 150,0000.

“#3 – Do not gossip or spread rumours. Gossiping or spreading rumours may seem trivial, but not here in the UAE. As cited earlier, ranting or sharing hate posts could lead to serious punishment. Six months jail time and a fine of AD 250,000 await those who use social networks “for the purpose of defamation of or offending.”

Justice or not?: Given that the video shared by the Nigerian woman put the faces of the UAE immigration officers on full display and was recorded without their consent, @dunchichi may have been guilty of violating provisions of the country’s Cyber Crimes law.

The law also emphasised that violators will still be liable to punishment even after the content has been deleted.

The law read: “…content is often removed or blocked, and further measures are taken the offenders again. The rule of thumb to be followed here is that taking photographs of anyone without their consent or creating, transferring, disclosing, copying or saving their photos in any form without their express consent is an actionable offence in the UAE. The rules concerning privacy violations are quite different and unique to this jurisdiction and hence can often be overlooked by ex-pats in the region. However, this practice should be avoided as the said laws are strictly applied in the UAE and ignorance of the law is not an excuse.”

Source: Pulse NG

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