The Straits Times
Published on Nov 13, 2012

UAE tightens laws on political activism on Internet


DUBAI (AP) - The United Arab Emirates (UAE) set stricter Internet monitoring and enforcement codes on Tuesday that include giving authorities wider leeway to crack down on Internet activists for offences such as mocking the country's rulers or calling for demonstrations.

The measures are another sign of tougher cyber-policing efforts by Western-backed leaders across the Gulf amid growing concerns over perceived political or security threats since the Arab Spring uprisings.

The clampdown, however, has brought outcry from rights groups and media freedom advocates that claim Gulf authorities are increasingly muzzling free expression in the name of preserving the powers of the ruling clans from Kuwait to Oman.

The new UAE codes - posted on the official news agency WAM - also raise questions about potential new red lines for the country's huge expatriate workforce in which parodies and pointed criticism of the UAE are common fodder on websites. It is unclear too whether the codes could put a chill on media coverage of sensitive issues such as the rising profile of Islamist factions.