‘Slander’ and ‘Libel’ are said to occur when someone makes a false statement about you and which potentially damages your reputation. Let us first understand the difference between ‘Libel’ and ‘Slander’. Both are concerned with instances of defamation, however, from a legal point of view, they are very distinct. Though, both Libel and slander constitute defamatory statements, ‘libel’ constitutes a defamatory statement that is in a written form, while ‘slander’ constitutes a defamatory statement that is oral in nature.
In this article, we will discuss how you can take legal action and also how to claim damages in such instances.
Defamation under the UAE laws constitutes a criminal offence. Article 425 of federal decree law number 31 of 2021 on the issuance of crimes and penalties law (‘UAE penal code’) states that:
“Any person defaming another person in any way publicly, by imputing a fact to him which may render him subject to punishment or contempt, shall be liable to a jail sentence for a period not exceeding two (2) years or a fine not exceeding AED twenty thousand (20,000).
The penalty shall be a jail sentence and a fine or either one of these two penalties if the defamation “qazf” is committed against a public official or a person assigned to a public service during, or by reason, or in the course of fulfilment of the public office or service, or if the act is against decency or the reputation of families, or if achieving an unlawful purpose is intended.
If the defamation “qazf” is committed by way of publishing in any newspaper or publication, such matter shall be considered an aggravating circumstance.”
Further, Article 427 of the UAE penal code specifically covers the instances of ‘slander’, where the act of defamation or insult is being committed by telephone or in the face of the victim and in the presence of a third party. The law imposes penalty for slanderous acts, even when the same is committed in the absence of a witness to testify on the occurrence. The penalty imposed includes a fine of up to Dirhams five thousand wherein the slander is caused in the face of the victim but in the absence of a third party (witness).
Apart from the criminal penalty for an act of slander, the victim may also be able to claim civil damages. In such instances, the civil court will calculate damages based on two factors whether the damages are quantifiable in nature or unquantifiable. A Plaintiff in a defamation case might be able to claim ‘quantified damages’ by showcasing actual loss caused to his earnings, loss in business, loss of opportunity etc., due to the direct effect of such slanderous action. On the other hand, when the nature of the damages is unquantifiable in nature, such as when a person suffers from emotional and mental anguish, loss of confidence, sleep disorders etc., it is not easy to quantify such damages. As there does not exist any direct measuring parameters to quantify this and therefore it will be subject to the discretion of the judge.
Instances of slander due to the oral nature of the act is increasingly hard to prove; however, the criminal courts will take into account corroborative evidence in the form of witness testimony and other contributing factors that support the claim of the victim.