Citizen journalist beware – the perils of shooting video in Dubai

Dubai’s social media was buzzing yesterday with chatter about a video uploaded to Youtube of a local apparently beating a van driver. The video, which was initially taken off Youtube and which can be viewed above, shows the national using his agal to hit the Indian driver who’d apparently clipped his four-wheel drive and who hadn’t stopped during the initial collision. Part of the incident, including the national’s car license plate were captured in the video, which was reposted several times on Youtube. According to media reports including one piece from the daily Gulf News, the issue became a police matter not due to the alleged assault itself but rather due to the video going viral and the attention that it attracted.

A video of a government official beating a van driver was posted on YouTube has generated a public outcry and urged police to take legal action, said a legal expert.
“Initially it was an ordinary assault case, yet as soon as it was posted on YouTube, it went viral on social media channels. Since then, the case became of public concern and incited public opinion — that was when Dubai Police intervened. They took the required legal action against the involved persons,” advocate Mohammad Abdullah Al Redha told Gulf News.

Sources from Dubai Public Prosecution confirmed to Gulf News that investigations started in the afternoon as soon as they received the case.

Al Redha said: “It became a case of disdain and disparagement and particularly that it’s Ramadan, the month of mercy and forgiveness. When such incidents develop into a matter of public opinion and concern, police have the right to refer the case to prosecutors. According to the Criminal Procedures Law’s article 10, the Public Prosecution [in its capacity as the legal representative of the public right] can order the police to open an official complaint against the government official even if the van driver doesn’t do so.”

The case took an interesting turn today with the news that the person who took the video, a fellow driver, was arrested. According to Gulf News, the alleged defendant’s son lodged the case citing defamation of his father and family.

Major General Al Mazeina, acting chief of Dubai Police, said the Asian man who posted the clip was arrested after the Emirati official’s son lodged a defamation complaint at Al Ghusais Police Station.

“We only arrested the man who took the video because of a complaint lodged by the family of the Emirati official,” said Major General Al Mazeina.

He said that no one had the right to take pictures or film anyone without permission and acknowledgment from the person who is pictured.

“The man who took the video was supposed to take the video to the police or to the concerned authority to report the incident and then the police for sure would take action but instead of that the man posted the video on YouTube,” said Major General Al Mazeina.

The son told police that the video had been seen by hundred of thousands of people worldwide, which had damaged the reputation of his father and the whole family.

Major General Al Mazeina said the Asian man admitted to police that he took the video and posted it on YouTube and that he also sent it to some of his friends. He said the Asian man happened to be passing by at the time the incident took place.

Under the UAE’s cybercrime laws, recording videos in public without the permission of those being filmed is illegal and constitutes defamation. Despite the uproar over the issue, it seems that the authorities may not be willing to drop the case against the person who took the video despite calls on social media to reward his decision to film and post the event online. The message is simple – don’t film anything that could be construed as negative and share it online. Or else you could be facing public charges.