The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) warns: “Taking photos in areas designated as no photography zones can lead to arrest, fines, and even deportation.” In the Emirates, it is illegal to take pictures of military, airport or government installations in the emirate. The ban includes also embassies and places that are considered sensitive.
Recently, Robert Alan Black, a 70-year-old American, traveled to Abu Dhabi to speak at a conference on creative thinking only to be detained for allegedly taking a photo in a forbidden area; he was arrested for taking a photograph of a subject deemed off-limits by authorities, says Black’s daughter, Jessica Beasley.
The man was arrested on 21 October in Abu Dhabi, in accordance with local laws. Ms. Beasley, who spoke to her father who is detained in the Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba prison, believes his actions were unintentional. “He took a photo where he was not supposed to,” she stresses, and pleads for Robert’s release. She believes that his continued incarceration will affect her father’s ailing health; he suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Therefore, she has pleaded for her father’s early release.
So far, there is no mention of his discharge from prison. Beasley, however, mentions that an American consular official (from the Embassy of the United States Abu Dhabi) has been visiting him and has confirmed he is receiving medical treatment.
The media has yet to reveal what Mr. Black photographed, where or when. No one has commented on his case, neither the local police nor the prosecutor’s office or the U.S. government. However, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi is providing all possible consular assistance to Robert until his release is decided. Meanwhile, his family is trying to hire a local attorney and raise money for his defense.There is sure to be more media coverage on any further legal proceedings.
Robert Black, since 1978, has travelled the world to give presentations like the one in the UAE – “Creative Thinkers” Abu Dhabi conference; he was on his way to another presentation in Malaysia. As any tourist would do, in a new environment he took some snapshots, but in a marked “No Photography” zone; he was apologetic and declared that hisintent was not to disrespect the culture or the law.
Lesson learned: Always respect local regulations! It is best to only take pictures were allowed and not in places where there is enforcement signs that are clearly posted.Even if no such signs are posted, tourists should always use common sense in takingphotos in public areas.