UAE imprisons reporter over leaked comments before soccer match telecast

UAE imprisons reporter over leaked comments before soccer match telecast
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A television reporter has been detained in the United Arab Emirates for comments he made before a football match, the Associated Press reported.

The journalist, whose nationality is unknown, reportedly made pre-match comments before the Emirates' tie with Iraq during a World Cup qualifier on the Abu Dhabi Sports Channel earlier this month.

He was charged by prosecutors in UAE for crimes related to inciting hate speech and violating public morals, according to state news agency WAM

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The report further added that an audio and video clip circulated online showed the accused "exchanging conversations while technical devices were being tested before the live broadcast, uttering words and phrases which would harm the public interest in the country."

The feed was “hacked and the published clips were seized and broadcast on accounts on some social media sites,” AP added.

The journalist also faces charges that carry up to five years in prison and a fine from $1,360 up to $136,000, Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National said, according to AP. 

The Abu Dhabi Sports Channel fired three people involved with the broadcast over the incident, WAM said.

The UAE has strict media laws in place and regulates printing and publishing licensing and activities in the UAE. The country is currently ranked 131 in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Freedom House also said that "journalists commonly practice self-censorship, and outlets frequently publish government statements without criticism or comment." 

Updated at 9:56 a.m.