Defamation under Subarticle 3(5) of the Saudi Arabian Anti-Cybercrime Law
Keywords:defamation, reputational harm, insult, competing rights, Sharia, Islamic law
According to subarticle 3(5) of the Saudi Anti-Cyber Crime Law (SACCL), the commission of defamation by means of information technology devices, which causes damage to others, is punishable by either one-year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to 500,000 Riyal or both. However, in court practice, the application of this deeming provision has created a significant imbalance between the competing rights, most notably to the detriment of the rights of defence as a whole. The purpose of this article is to provide a critical review of the Saudi lawmaker’s intent behind subarticle 3(5), which explicitly places the right to protection of reputation over the rights of defamation defendants, thereby undermining the right to a fair trial. Also reviewed are Sharia’s broad definition of defamation, what can be found to have a defamatory meaning and how said definition is being used as a reference to both the defamation and insult offences under subarticle 3(5) of the SACCL. By highlighting issues critical and crucial to the rights of defamation defendants, this article’s purpose is to contribute to the debate on the necessity of amending subarticle 3(5) of the SACCL.