ABU DHABI // An amateur photographer who was jailed and fined for taking prohibited pictures from the Khalifa Bridge despite there being no warning signs said he has been told his Dh14,500 (US$4,000) camera will not be returned. MA, a Pakistani living in Sharjah, came to Abu Dhabi last year to capture images of the capital, which he was hoping to submit for the photography competition Abu Dhabi Through Your Eyes.
On October 25, he was driving over the newly opened Khalifa Bridge when he stopped to take a picture of the sunset with his Canon 5D Mark II and a 24-100mm lens. He said he was stopped by a man in an unmarked car who claimed to be an Army officer. The man asked to see the camera and the pictures, MA said, then wanted to confiscate the camera and take MA to the police. Instead, the police were called and MA was arrested and imprisoned for two days after pictures of "prohibited areas" were found on his camera.
The area where MA was taking pictures, the Mina Zayed, houses warships and defence installments. MA told police and the court he did not know he was taking pictures of a sensitive area, as there were no signs prohibiting photography. On Monday, he was fined Dh1,000 by the Federal Supreme Court, which tries state security cases. The verdict did not include his camera being confiscated. "I went to the Public Prosecution and State Security and I got my passport back, finally, but they told me I would not get the camera back," MA said. "I asked where the camera was and they said the camera was confiscated."
When MA went to the court to inquire if this was a part of his sentence, he was told to come back in two weeks to get a copy of the verdict. "I told them to format the [memory] card or even just take it, but give me back the camera and they said no. They said the judgment was to take the camera." The Public Prosecution could not be reached for comment yesterday. MA said the lesson he learned was more than just not pulling over at the side of the highway to take pictures.
"The Abu Dhabi Brand [organisers of the competition] need to be more clear about where photographers can and cannot take pictures. Sky is not the limit." email@example.com