Don't blame it on the weatherman: UAE's weather warning

Don't blame it on the weatherman: UAE's weather warning
UAE police have warned the public that posting videos and pictures of rain that 'insults' the nation could lead to three years in jail for offenders.
3 min read
14 Mar, 2016
Large parts of the UAE have flooded after recent rain hit the country [AFP]
Posting "negative" images of rain in the UAE could land you in jail, the interior ministry has warned, as the country continues to be hit with thunderstorms leading to flooding in parts of the country.

Spreading rumours about the weather - or even just posting images and videos of the floods - could land social media users in jail for as long as three years.

Lieutenant Colonel Salah Obeid al Ghoul, director of Law Respect Culture Bureau in the ministry, told Emarat al-Youm that spreading false or negative images and videos could lead to panic in the country, and damage the reputation of the UAE.

"Social media sites carry a lot of messages, some lacking accuracy and credibility because some people are adept at launching rumours and promoting irresponsible emergency news that are incorrect and that negatively affect public opinion," he said.

He said that such posters ignored the "brave work" of Emirati police and rescue teams over the past few days and instead chose to share videos of floods and damage to buildings.

Ghoul also said that "irresponsible behaviour" could also interfere with the work of emergency services.

Responsibility for sourcing accurate information through official and reliable challenges rests with the public, he added, and those who flout the law could be jailed between one month and three years.

Meanwhile the UAE could be set for more rain, as weather reports predict further thunderstorms this week.

Videos have been widely shared on social media showing strong winds and rain, and ceilings collapse and chunks of skyscrapers flying away
Read also: A hard rain's a-falling in the Gulf
Others have been more humourous. One video widely shared on social media showed a man dressed in traditional Emirati clothing waterboarding through the UAE's flooded the streets. 

Other footage showed a man canoeing through a residential area of Dubai.

The news laws have led to confusion about what comments about the weather can land you in jail. Judging from the comments, the net has been left fairly wide open for judges to interpret.

"I was about to say it looks like rain outside, but I don't want to go to jail. This is going to mess up weather reports. If they get a forecast wrong, will it mean jail for the weather people?" he asked.

Spreading rumours online or "insulting" the country is a punishable offense in the UAE with fines of up to $275,000.

It comes as security forces continue to clamp down on critical comments about the UAE on social media, with a number of people jailed for criticising the country's war in Yemen. 

An Omani man was sentenced to three years in jail for "mocking" the country on WhatsApp messenger.

One of the functions of Ghoul's department is encouraging young people in the UAE to show respect to their parents and Emirati culture.

"It also aims at acquainting juveniles and their parents with the law respect culture, so as to be aware of their rights, obligations, and the good manners that every individual must have, in addition to good habits and proper behaviours needed to succeed in society," he said.