A reminder about social media censorship when you travel to certain countries

Photo: zeevveez/Flickr

Jodi Magi wasn’t trying to make a political statement or cause an international incident when she posted a photo to Facebook in February. The Australian artist just snapped a picture of herself in front of a car without a handicapped sticker that had illegally taken over two handicapped spaces in front of her apartment building in Abu Dhabi – and she even blurred the license plate before she shared it. But when one of her neighbors filed a police complaint about the pic, she was in for the kind of trouble that goes way beyond comments on social media.

Magi was charged under the United Arab Emirates Cyber Crime Law, found guilty (without a trial, obviously) of “writing bad words on social media” and fined $2,680. She has lived in Abu Dhabi since 2012 and has taught a women’s graphic design class, but she was told that she would be deported after paying the fine. When she reported to the police station to pay up, she was immediately taken into custody. Magi told news.com.au: 

No one’s talking to me, no one’s telling me what’s going on. I’m pretty scared.

A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the news outlet that it had been offering “consular assistance,” and insisted that taking Magi into custody was “normal practice” before being deported.

She doesn’t know how long she will be held in jail and she says she had no idea that her post was even a little bit illegal (“I used the internet,” she said). Magi has since removed the post from Facebook and has changed her profile picture to a modification of one of her own paintings, called “Their delusion had a pathetic sweetness to it.” Before, it was a close cropped image of a zebra’s face. Now the zebra is behind heavy black bars.

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