The digital foxes are in charge of the human rights henhouse

Thursday, 15 November, 2012

On Tuesday, swelling with regional pride, Al Arabiya noted, “UAE wins seat on U.N. Human Rights Council, garners highest Asia vote“. The foreign affairs minister of the UAE (United Arab Emirates), Mohammad Gargash, welcomed the “victory” with the following quote: “The win crowned a series of achievements made by the UAE in its human rights record over the recent years, particularly in areas of legislations to uphold and protect fundamental freedoms and legal rights of individuals, rights of women and children and advanced regulations on rights of foreign workforce.”

The fox among the hens So how does this “win” for humanity stack up when contrasted with reality? As it happens, the UAE will be taking up its seat at the Geneva HQ of the Human Rights Council equipped with a Draconian new law that mandates jail time for anyone who criticizes the government online. According the Global Arab Network, ” In a presidential decree announced on official news agency WAM, authorities said the new legislation would target web sites and internet users that ‘deride or… damage the reputation or the stature of the state or any of its institutions’. These institutions include the president, the vice president, any of the rulers of the emirates, their crown princes, the deputy rulers, the national flag, the national anthem, the emblem of the state or any of its symbols, the decree said.”

And here’s a really Orwellian section: “The new decree also imposes penalties of imprisonment to any person providing any organisations, bodies, institutions or entities, online or through any information technology means with misleading, inaccurate or incorrect information which would damage the interests of the state or damage its reputation and stature.” [emphasis added]

And on and on the decree goes, paragraph after paragraph, each one more totalitarian than the other.

Reuters, in its report on the law, made this telling observation: “Social networking sites have enlivened public discourse in the UAE, a major oil exporter and business hub, where state media is tightly controlled and freedom of speech is restricted.”

The UAE will be joined on the UN Human Rights Council by those other champions of liberty, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Kazakhstan and Pakistan.

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