A UAE court has sentenced two people, one of whom is a TV journalist, to two years in prison over a “fabricated” report on Covid-19 deaths. Of five members of one family, state media reported.
An investigation into the report, broadcast on Abu Dhabi Sports ChannelIt was quickly determined to be incorrect, authorities said in August.
Prosecutors said at the time: “This incident negatively affected community members and left them in a state of confusion and fear of an outbreak.”
According to the official news agency (WAM), “The Federal Court of Appeal in Abu Dhabi sentenced two of the defendants to two years in prison after being convicted of broadcasting a fabricated story about the death of five members of the same family from the Covid-19 virus.”
She added that the channel’s correspondent, residing in the UAE, would be “expelled” at the end of his sentence, without specifying his nationality.
The name of the other defendant was not disclosed, but press reports stated that it was the person interviewed for the story, which went viral on social media. Nor was his nationality determined.
The United Arab Emirates, whose capital is Abu Dhabi, has recorded more than 138,000 cases of Coronavirus, including 508 deaths.
The state, which prides itself on managing the crisis decisively and effectively, regularly calls on the media to rely on official information and not publish “false news” about the epidemic.
Abu Dhabi Media, a government agency that owns several channels, including the Abu Dhabi Sports Channel, was not available for comment when contacted by AFP.
Reporters Without Borders ranks the UAE 131st in its 180th country World Press Freedom Index, He said that journalists face long prison sentences for crimes such as “defaming, insulting the state, or spreading false information with the aim of harming the country’s reputation.”