Qatar - Data Protection update: Penal Code amended

A recent amendment to the Penal Code criminalises certain use of mobile devices to take pictures or record images in public spaces, regardless of whether consent is obtained.

Article 333 of the Qatar Penal Code prohibits the invasion of privacy in certain circumstances. Before the recent amendment, Article 333 criminalised the following conduct if the consent of the relevant individual was not obtained:

  • opening a letter addressed to another person
  • listening to a live phone call
  • recording conversations conducted in a private place, and
  • taking or transmitting pictures of individuals in a private place.

These activities could be sanctioned by imprisonment for up to two years or a fine up to QAR 10,000, or both.

Law No. 4 of 2017 has added two further categories of conduct to the prohibitions listed in Article 333:

  • taking or transmitting pictures or videos of one or more individuals in a public place using any device with the intention to cause harm or defame the individuals, and
  • taking or transmitting pictures or videos of individuals who have been injured or killed in accidents using any device, except as permitted by law.

The conduct prohibited by Law No. 4 of 2017 can also be sanctioned by imprisonment for up to two years or a fine up to QAR 10,000, or both.

The amendment follows the introduction of Qatar Law No. 13 of 2016 on the protection of personal data, which will enter into force in July 2017 and represents the first attempt by a GCC member state to introduce “European-style” legislation around the use of personal data (see our article on the law here).

The new prohibitions, however, are in a different vein. Rather than pursue the goal of improving privacy practices amongst corporations and government bodies, Law No. 4 of 2017 is an attempt to clamp down on behaviour amongst individuals which the authorities consider unacceptable, in particular around the use of mobile devices to film action in public spaces and the prurient interest some may take in road traffic and similar accidents.

Notably, it seems doubtful that a failure to obtain consent is a necessary element of the offences introduced by Law No. 4 of 2017, as it is for the conduct criminalised under the earlier version of Article 333. Individuals will now need to exercise greater caution when using mobile devices to capture images in public areas in the country.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.