x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Specialist court will hear media cases

A new, specialised court is being created in Abu Dhabi to deal with lawsuits involving the media, including cases of libel and defamation.

ABU DHABI // A new, specialised court is being created in Abu Dhabi to deal with lawsuits involving the media, including cases of libel, defamation and untruthful reporting. The court, announced on Sunday by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed in his capacity as chairman of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, will be accompanied by a public prosecution, and will handle all media-related crimes and disputes.

It is expected to begin sitting by the end of the year - although it could start sooner - and will join the many other specialist courts housed within the Judicial Department complex. It is not known how many judges will preside over the court, but it is believed they and the public prosecutors will receive special training on media laws. The new media draft law, which was passed by the Federal National Council on January 20, still requires the signature of the President to become law.

Although media companies in Abu Dhabi's free zone are governed by separate legislation, the court will hear their cases as well as those from the rest of the Emirate, and apply the free zone laws. Despite the growing number of international journalists in Abu Dhabi, it is believed the court will be held in Arabic, with translators available. While there have been cases in the West of journalists being jailed for refusing to reveal their sources, the proposed UAE law protects them from being imprisoned and guarantees the right to protect their sources.

Journalists accused of a crime outside of their professional capacity, such as murder or theft, will still be tried under the penal code in the criminal court. In April, the Judicial Department set up specialist courts to deal with contract and construction disputes, medical liability and negligence cases, banking and finance issues, insurance claims and compensation demands, in addition to the family and Sharia courts that existed previously.

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