Don't mention the weather

Some unusually dramatic weather hit the United Arab Emirates last week. In the words of Gulf News:

Rain and thunderstorms caused major disruptions across the UAE on Wednesday as flights were cancelled, motorists were stuck for hours, traffic on major roads diverted and schools were closed.

Wind gusts of up to 130 kph shattered glass windows while flooded roads stalled life and even caused the Abu Dhabi stock market to shut down trading.

Naturally, people living in the area picked up their mobile phones and began posting photos and videos of these events on the internet. This outbreak of uncontrolled citizen journalism seems to have alarmed the government, and officials are now urging Emiratis to ignore social media and turn instead to "competent departments" for the "correct information".

Officials have also warned that people who post any news breaching "public security" or "harming public interest" could face a three-year jail sentence. According to Emirati media, officials are interpreting this to include posting "negative images" of bad weather, accidents, fires, etc.

Emirates 24/7 reports:

During the recent heavy rains across the UAE some individuals behaved irresponsibly on social networking sites, said officials. They shared photos and videos from accidents that occurred during the rainy days and circulated rumours about building collapses and people drowning in rain water, thereby, creating panic among public.

In addition, they ignored the great initiatives by the authorised departments and the heroic efforts by police and civil defence teams ...

Lawyer Yousef Al Sharif said some people shared videos and images of the weather in a manner that harms the country's reputation and disrupts public peace. He added that as per law such acts are punishable. Violators can be punished with imprisonment and a fine not exceeding Dh1 million [$270,000] for spreading false information or rumours online that damages the reputation of the country.


Posted by Brian Whitaker
Monday, 14 March 2016