Reporters Without Borders

Ten months in jail for tweets, new threat to freedom of information

Ten months in jail for tweets, new threat to freedom of information

Published on Tuesday 9 April 2013. Updated on Wednesday 10 April 2013.
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Reporters Without Borders condemns the 10-month jail sentence that an Abu Dhabi court passed yesterday on the netizen Abdullah Al-Hadidi for tweeting details of the trial of 94 alleged government opponents from the courtoom “in bad faith.”

Observers and foreign media are not being all owed to attend the trial of the 94 alleged dissidents, who are charged endangering the country’s security. Hadidi, who was able to attend the fourth hearing on 19 March as the son of one of the defendants, was arrested on 22 March and has been held ever since.

In several tweets, Hadidi criticized the decision to bar foreign journalists from the courtroom. More than 15 international lawyers were also denied entry to the United Arab Emirates with the result that they were unable to assist with the defence.

“The decision to convict Hadidi because of his tweets is indicative of the government’s desire to impose a news blackout on the trial of the 94 and its refusal to accept any form of public criticism of its policies. We call for Hadidi’s immediate release and for his conviction to be overturned.

“The UAE policy of gagging critics who express their views or report information online is part of a growing regional tendency to convict netizens on charges of ‘disseminating false information.’ The Gulf regimes have found this to be an easy way to suppress information of a critical nature and intimidate those who refuse to relay the official discourse.”

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