Operating overseas in some zones may impose some challenges due to different business environment, culture and laws. This is a try to share some practical guidance on how best to navigate them.
- The right to privacy: Most countries in MENA and UAE as an example prohibits publishing any information relating to the “secrets” of the private life of individuals, even if they are true. The right to privacy in respect of personal communications sent by postal, telegraphic or telephonic means is enshrined in the constitutions of many Middle East countries. This law provides that governmental departments and private companies (and their employees) must not disclose personal data without consent. Moreover, individuals in the UAE who, by reason of their profession, are entrusted with confidential information and disclose it, face imprisonment of up to a year and a fine.
- Covert recording is a crime: In the context of recording conversations . It is a criminal offence in the UAE to record or copy any conversation conducted in a private place without prior consent. This is considered as an invasion of private life. Any evidence obtained through covert recordings will not be admissible in court, and the person recording such evidence will be committing a criminal offence.
- Social media abuse: MENA is overwhelmingly young, increasingly tech-savvy and markedly prone to surfing the internet, making calls on WhatsApp, sharing images via Snapchat, posting pics on Instagram and engaging with other people and the world on social media.
According to industry announcements as well as the first report ever compiled on social media in the Arab world, the picture was as follows: With 80 million users, Facebook continues to be the most popular social network in MENA. Egypt’s 27 million users make it MENA’s largest Facebook population, followed by Saudi Arabia (12 million) and Iraq (11 million) The increase of social media usage presents further risks for employers in the region. Defamation is a criminal offence in the UAE, and includes both oral and published statements. Punishments are severe; individuals can face up to two years in prison or a large fine. Accordingly, employers ought to explain the risks and implications to their employees of posting defamatory remarks on social media platforms. The truthfulness of the statement is irrelevant and cannot be used as a defense. It is an offence to cause harm to an individual’s reputation.
- Individuals acceptance & awareness: One difficulty in conducting investigations in the Middle East is that individuals are reluctant to cooperate. Those who cooperate often feel more vulnerable because of the strict penalties for defamation and the risks of losing their employment and visa. Consequently, individuals can be hesitant in reporting or discussing allegations. On the other hand, individuals who have been dismissed following allegations will often challenge the decision in order to gain time to find alternative employment, thus avoiding the need to leave the jurisdiction because of the absence of a sponsor.
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