We often hear stories of people being arrested due to photography and invading someone's privacy
12 December 2018| Last updated on 16 February 2020
If you’re a resident or tourist in the UAE, there are certain laws that govern photography and its usage in the country to be aware of…
In one of the most Instagrammable places on Earth, it may be surprising to some that there are actually strict laws that govern what and where can be photographed.
Taking a quick picture on your smartphone of a building, view or moment here is considered safe to do so. Taking photos or shooting video in public places in Dubai and UAE isn’t prohibited unless explicitly stated… There are exceptions however, which we explain in this guide.
Most hotels, resorts and public spaces require permissions from management teams and authorities to capture images or arrange a photoshoot.
If you do wish to capture professional photos or arrange a photoshoot in any of Dubai and the UAE’s public spaces, there are a few things you need to be aware of.
Here are four things you need to know about taking photos in Dubai and the UAE...
1. Make sure you get the right permissions
If you’re working on a commercial campaign, perhaps as part of your job, you must ensure you gain the right permissions that will allow you to conduct a shoot in a public place.
Attractions such as Madinat Souk Jumeirah, or in any of the huge malls in Dubai, require you to receive permission for your visit prior to the venue. Most, if not all, hotels will also prevent you to take images with professional cameras around their grounds and hotel if you don’t acquire approval first.
If you’re simply visiting a public place – like a beach in Dubai, any one of the malls or at a top attraction – it’s generally okay to capture images on your smartphone of the view, an event or a friend/family member.
But if you are approached by security, management or even the police, and requested to delete any images or footage captured, you must do so.
2. Taking photos of people without their consent is punishable by law
If you take a photo or video that may violate the privacy of another individual, you can face serious consequences as per the UAE’s law.
The particular laws in place that helps to protect the privacy of an individual in the UAE are Article 378 of the UAE Penal Code (Federal Law 3 of 1987) and Article 21 of the UAE Cyber Crime Law (Federal Law No. 5 of 2012).
In general, it is common knowledge that it is forbidden to take photos of women and families in the UAE in public places. Taking photos of people is a sensitive issue in Dubai’s local culture.
We explain both laws for you here…
Article 378 of the UAE Penal Code (Federal Law 3 of 1987)
This makes clear that taking a person’s picture without their consent, or in legally permitted circumstances, “shall be an invasion of that person’s privacy or family life.”
“Not only will the camera or device be confiscated and the recordings destroyed, but the photography or videographer may have to pay a fine and be imprisoned. The same punishment is also applicable to anyone who publishes such pictures.” - More on this below.
Article 21 of the UAE Cyber Crime Law (Federal Law No. 5 of 2012)
This law stipulates that “using a visual device to invade the privacy of a third party by capturing their picture or transferring, copying or keeping those pictures is a crime punishable by at least six months imprisonment and a fine of up to Dh500,000.”
3. Sharing that footage without permission is illegal, too
There is a law in place, Article 43 of the UAE Copyright Law (Federal Law No. 7 of 2002), which governs the sharing of photos or video footage of an individual without their permission in the UAE.
We explain the law here…
Article 43 of the UAE Copyright Law (Federal Law No. 7 of 2002)
This law reiterates the offence under the Penal Code but also grants some exceptions.
“If the photographer or videographer captures a picture of another they shall not have the right to keep, show, and exhibit, communicate, distribute, or publish the pictures without the prior consent of the person of whom the picture had been taken. The offence shall be punished by detention for not more than six months and payment of a fine.”
There are exceptions to this offence, which are only applicable if:
- The picture is captured at a public event;
- The picture is of official personalities, public figures or celebrities; or
- The publication of the pictures is permitted by the authorities in the public interest.
It’s also worth noting that you should not post another individual’s work - photo or video - online without consent, and don’t tag someone online without their consent.
4. Avoid taking footage of government organisations, political buildings and military sites
Critical installations, strategic and military locations and government organisations or political buildings cannot be photographed for security reasons.
As a result, it is illegal to capture footage of restricted areas as per the photography laws of the UAE.
To give an idea, government entities include authorities such as the Dubai Civil Defence, Department of Finance, Dubai Chamber, the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department, Dubai Courts and Dubai Public Prosecution. A full list can be found here for your reference.
If you’re heading into the desert for off-roading or camping, do take care as dotted around the emirate are restricted zones. That innocent picture of a camel you saw might actually have a military base behind it and you didn’t realise – so do take care!