First with Financial Comment from Arabia

UAE website successfully sued for defamation over comments

with one comment

The publishers of the UAE website Hetta have been fined almost $5,500 and the website closed for a month after comments attached by a reader to an article were ruled defamatory.

The comments were considered slander and defamation by the Abu Dhabi Media Company which successfully took the legal action. According to Gulf News the defendant has said he will be filing an appeal with the Federal Supreme Court.

Responsible for comments

The lower court ruled that the editor of the website was responsible for readers’ comments published on the website.

ArabianMoney receives a daily bundle of comments and can only concur with the ruling of the court. Many of these comments are libel and slander and should not be automatically be published without proper editorial screening.

To open up a website as some kind of an open forum for comment is something very different from running a site governed by responsible and ethical standards of journalism. It is a license for anybody to throw insults, often anonymously, at companies and individuals that are not in an immediate position to defend themselves.

If websites find themselves overwhelmed by reader comments they can always shut them down for a period. The Daily Telegraph does this from time to time.

In reality website comments should be treated like letters to the editor in a newspaper. No newspaper will print unverified accusations against third parties in a letter column.

Websites should also have to play by these rules. Readers comments are not sufficiently proven to justify their immediate and unscreened publication especially when they focus their wrath on particular individuals and companies.

Anonymous comments

On the other hand, for certain websites or newspapers these comments might provide the anonymous tip off that leads to further investigation. So long as they remain unpublished they are no more than idle gossip and speculation.

Once they appear on the Internet, particularly appended to an established website, then that is something very different. They immediately have a credibility that they may not deserve, and website owner is responsible for having created that platform.

New media is changing the way we access are news and comment. Dead trees are out and iPhones in. But the rules of the reporting game have not changed. And all civilized societies have an effective limit to the freedom of speech under the law.


Written by Peter Cooper

January 16, 2010 at 9:05 am

Posted in Culture, Media

One Response

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  1. I have pretty much travelled to most countries and do quite a bit of web surfing. From what I have seen is that Taiwan’s media pretty much offers the most freedom in their newspapers and on their websites whether it be forum or blogs. The media and censorship in the middle-east unfortunately is more like what China is in Asia.


    January 16, 2010 at 4:50 pm

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