x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Supreme Court rejects lawsuit over blocked online forum

A recent lawsuit claiming a website was unfairly blocked in the UAE was thrown out because the claimant did not have standing.

ABU DHABI // The Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit filed by an Emirati lawyer over a blocked online discussion forum on UAE affairs.

Abdulhamid Al Kumaiti, an Emirati lawyer, filed a complaint to the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance on March 14 last year, after the website www.uaehewar.net was blocked by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

Mr Al Kumaiti’s complaint demanded a disclosure of the reasons behind the TRA’s actions.

But all courts rejected the case, including the Federal Supreme Court.

The courts held that Mr Al Kumaiti’s argument was “invalid” and he was unqualified to initiate the lawsuit, which should be done by someone directly and personally involved with the website, such as an administrator.

According to court documents, “being a visitor to the website does not give him the right to file a lawsuit, and there is no evidence that he is a regular visitor to the site”.

According to court documents, the site was blocked on February 7 last year, nearly six months after the website’s launch in August 2009. Before that, the site had been subjected to several temporary censorship actions, Mr Al Kumaiti said. The point of his demands, said Mr Al Kumaiti, was to unearth the reasons why the site was blocked.

The website remains blocked today. The TRA was not available for  comment.

The internet forum was launched to encourage online discussions on the affairs of the UAE, whether political, religious, cultural, social or civil. The identity of those who established the free site remains unknown. The anonymity provided by the forum encouraged discussions on sensitive topics.

The TRA’s and UAE’s internet access management policy outlines 13 categories of content that must be filtered by internet providers. They include content involving sex, gambling, criminal activities and defamation of religion, and anything likely to offend public interest, public morality, public order, public and national security, national harmony and Islam. However, politics and social criticism are not included.

hkhalaf@thenational.ae