DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Three journalists who appeared on a Dubai television sports channel and criticized the network's Abu Dhabi competitor have received three-month suspended prison sentences for slander, state-backed media reported.
The state-run WAM news agency cited the office of Abu Dhabi's public prosecutor in a report on Tuesday night about the convictions. Neither it nor The National newspaper of Abu Dhabi, owned by the state-run Abu Dhabi Media company that also owns the criticized sports channel, named those charged.
The journalists, appearing on Dubai Sports, criticized Abu Dhabi Sports for monopolizing the broadcast of the Arabian Gulf Cup soccer tournament and encoding the channel, according to an online report published Wednesday by The National.
The verdict by an Abu Dhabi misdemeanor court can be appealed, though prosecutors said a lawsuit against the journalists seeking 201,000 dirhams ($55,000) in damages would go on.
WAM reported that the journalists maintain their innocence, saying their comments touched on public opinion and did not include swear words. The Dubai Media Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are each separately ruled sheikhdoms in the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven emirates.
While liberal compared to other Mideast countries, the UAE has harsh laws governing expression and conduct on social media.