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  • Detained in Dubai

UAE government threatens prisoners over talking to media.

Authorities tell detainees that if they go to the press for help, their case will go to the “bottom of the pile”

UAE authorities have largely discouraged detainees from talking to the press, often with threats of legal abuse and further detention. It is illegal to talk negatively about the government and highlighting a legal case can be seen as highlighting judicial issues and therefore, criticising the government. However, in many cases, press interest and campaigning has been directly responsible for successful outcomes including acquittals, case reviews and early releases. Press interest has even resulted in the prosecution dropping charges against people who would otherwise have been jailed. The UAE government’s goal is to promote the country’s reputation and create the image of a modern and progressive country. It’s first goal is therefore to prevent criticism through encouraging silence. If a case is covered by international press, the government is usually less likely to press charges or issue lengthy sentences. In some incidents, campaigns have resulted in judicial review, acquittals and pardons.

Media and lobbying campaigns can equally be used in civil and commercial proceedings to pressure for a fair hearing, to encourage out of court settlements or discourage powerful individuals from abusing the justice system by making them publicly accountable.

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, has been campaigning on behalf of clients for ten years. She has seen the direct effect that coverage has on the outcome of a case. In two cases of the same nature, without media, one may receive a lengthy custodial sentence while another has their charges dropped. Stirling has worked with Safi Qarashi, Matt Joyce and Marcus Lee, Farzan Athari and a number of other high profile cases in using media alongside law to secure acquittals and releases.