UAE intent on punishing online dissent

New York, June 14, 2011– Today’s trial of prominent political blogger Ahmad Mansoor and four others for alleged insult of authorities, criticism and undermining of the government in relation to the their online writings and activism represents a further setback for press freedom in the United Arab Emirates, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

“The overblown charges against Ahmad Mansoor and his colleagues illustrate the government’s categorical intolerance for dissent,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem said. “We call on the Emirati judiciary to dismiss these baseless charges which stem from peaceful online dissent.”

The five are charged with “inciting to disobey laws and undertaking acts that endanger state security and affect public order and countering the system of government and insulting the president and his deputy and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi”. The accused are Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent political blogger who also runs the political online forum Al-Hiwar al-Emarati, financial analyst, writer, and economics lecturer Nasser bin Ghaith, blogger Fahd al-Shehi along with activists Hassan Ali Khamis, and Ahmad Abdel Khaliq. They were arrested in Apri; all have regularly called–on Al-Hiwar al-Emarati, their respective blogs, and elsewhere online–for increased political rights in the UAE.