Prohibited media content in the UAE
The UAE sets national standards for media content and requires all local mass media institutions operating in the UAE to abide by them. These include:
- to respect the regime of the United Arab Emirates, its symbols and the political system
- not to offend the divine and Islamic beliefs, and show respect to other religions
- to respect the culture and heritage of the UAE
- not to offend national unity nor social cohesion and/or incite up sectarian, regional and tribal conflict
- to respect directions and policies of the UAE at the domestic and international levels
- not to harm the economic system of the country, nor spread rumours, misleading and biased news
- to respect the government policies to promote national identity and the integration of citizens in the media labour market
- to respect the principles and codes of ethics of media work
- not to publish or broadcast information harmful to children, women and other social groups, or that would incite others toward hatred and violence
- to respect the copyright rules and regulations
- not to disclose official confidential contacts, military matters or conventions or treaties concluded by the government without proper authorisations
- not to report distorted proceedings and deliberations of courts or other regulatory bodies
- not to disclose information on a criminal investigation, which has not been concluded and/or ordered to be confidential
- not to publish news, photographs, comments which invade privacy of individuals and families or destroy reputation
- forging, fabricating documents or presenting incorrect news with bad intent
- material which harms the national currency or causes a confusion over the economic situation in a country
- newsletters or advertisements, which include expressions, photographs, or drawings that are in violation of public morals or may confuse the public
- defaming public officials
- investigations which deal with more than one party, without giving an account of the views of all parties directly concerned.
Advertising content policies
Official guide for advertisers
In October 2018, National Media Council (NMC) issued an official advertising guide, which aims to clarify standards for the advertisement industry in the UAE and to protect the public from marketing promotions that do not conform to applicable standards.
The document specifies the terms of licensing for advertising activities for individuals, companies and institutions.
NMC Chairman’s Decision No. 35 of 2013 regulates the content of advertising materials. According to the decision, all advertisements that are produced, placed or distributed within the UAE or imported into the UAE must abide by the national standards for media content and the Federal Law No. 15 of 1980 Concerning the Press and Publications.
All specialised advertising such as that related to medicine, drugs, food, promotional campaigns, special offers, real estate or universities and educational institutions must obtain prior approvals from the competent authorities. In addition, advertisement content must:
- not promote the acts of black magic or astrological predictions
- comply with the conditions and regulations related to the UAE flag, national emblem and anthem
- respect intellectual property rights of others
- not advertise alcoholic beverages, narcotic substances, tobacco, smoking or any related goods and services
- not be not be ambiguous, nor include any false or misleading or fraudulent information
- not include images that are falsified or imitated or that violate intellectual property rights
- not lead to confusion or ambiguity with other products or activities
- include the spoken Emirati dialect or the classic Arabic language
- clearly identify the advertiser.
New media, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are used widely in the UAE by the government entities and by the public as well. H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai actively uses social media to communicate with the people.
In 2014, he launched the Arab Social Media Award to harness the positive potential of social media for the good of the Arab world. The awards highlight the most important social media initiatives in the Arab world and promote best practices for social platforms and technologies.
In their interaction with the public, government entities in the UAE are obliged to follow the 'Guidelines for eParticipation and Social Media'.
10 guidelines for social media users in the UAE
On 23 October 2019, H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai tweeted a list of 10 guidelines that Emiratis should observe when using social media. The list encourages Emiratis who represent their country online to reflect the Founding Father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s image and ethics, the UAE’s accomplishments and humanitarian initiatives, values of modesty, goodness, openness and love for others, a self-confident personality who accepts diversity, is prepared for the uncertainties of future positively and admires his nation.
The guidelines follow the Letter of the New Season issued by Sheikh Mohammed to citizens and residents in the UAE on 31 August 2018. One of the themes in the letter is a strict warning against stirring up chaos on social media and jeopardizing the image and the reputation of the UAE.
Government’s social media accounts
The UAE Government avails official social media accounts to communicate with public and hear their needs. The public can use the following feedback channels of UAE Government services:
Social media accounts of U.ae:
Abu Dhabi Government's TAMM feedback channels:
Dubai Government's feedback channels:
Ajman Government's feedback channels:
Umm Al Quwain Government's feedback channels:
Ras Al Khaimah Government's feedback channels:
Laws for using social media
Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combatting Cybercrimes and its amendment by the Federal Law No. 12 of 2016
Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combatting Cybercrimes (PDF) and its amendment by the Federal Law No. 12 of 2016 and other applicable laws for the protection of privacy and reputation, defamation apply while using social media. Citizens and residents in the UAE need to be aware of the provisions of the law that spell out actions that could be a criminal offence.
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE issued 'The UAE Social Media White Papers' to create awareness about rights and obligations while using social media. Some of the acts that could be a criminal offence are:
- tagging a person without his consent
- posting other people's pictures or videos without their consent
- threatening people
- spreading information that is not verified by the official sources
- gossiping about people or maligning them.
Offenders could become liable to a jail term or fine as stipulated by the law/as awarded by the competent courts. Read more about cyber safety and digital security in the UAE.
Federal Decree Law No. 2 of 2015 on Combating Discrimination and Hatred
Federal Decree Law No. 2 of 2015 on Combating Discrimination and Hatred (PDF) criminalises any act that triggers religious hatred and/or insults religion through any form of expression, which covers speech and the written word, books, pamphlets or online media. The law prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, his prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards. Read more about UAE Anti-discrimination/Anti-hatred law.
Useful links from news coverage:
Social media influencers licensing
Social media influencers have to be licensed by National Media Council (NMC), if they accept paid ads to be published on their accounts. The cost of the licence is 15,000 dirhams for a period of one year, which may be renewed frequently. NMC will issue or renew the licence within 30 days from the date of submitting the application according to the rules.
TV and radio
TV channels, radio stations and print and online publications are amongst the popular media. These are owned by the government and private companies; both local and international. They offer content mainly in Arabic, English, Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Tagalog and Farsi.
The UAE is home to the main headquarters of several TV channels, with at least 72 free-to-air stations operating from the country in 2011. One notable addition came in May 2012, with the launch of the Arabic-language Sky News Arabia, a 24-hour news station that started beaming live to more than 50 million homes across the Middle East and North Africa as per UAE YearBook 2013 (PDF).
Following are some of the government media companies that own TV channels, radio stations and print and online publications:
TV channels include:
Al Emarat channel
It is the official channel of the United Arab Emirates and works under the slogan ‘Al Bayt Mitwahid’. It provides a variety of programmes that appeal to viewers of all ages. Other channels transmitted from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Northern Emirates are:
Radio channels include:
The UAE Government is taking special interest in promoting the production of films in the UAE. Efforts are being directed towards the production of both: indigenous and foreign films. Abu Dhabi Film Commission and Dubai Film and TV Commission offer attractive cash rebates to production houses shooting in the emirates.
Abu Dhabi Film Commission also offers production and broadcasting services apart from providing a talent directory. Refer to the production guide for more services.
The annual Dubai International Film Festival further boosts the UAE's position in the global media industry and underline her commitment towards nurturing the industry.
H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Majlis, which connects 30 government entities in Dubai. It operates under his direct supervision. The smart majlis facilitates people from various segments of society to interact and participate in the development process of the country by presenting their ideas and comments to the majlis, in addition to answering the questions posed by His Highness, exactly as they would in a traditional majlis.
Updated on 19 Nov 2019