Freedom of the Press in the United Arab Emirates

Over the years, the UAE government has waged scare campaigns targeting mainstream media groups. Journalists have been abducted, imprisoned, or fined, and executives and broadcasters have been interrogated for purportedly breaking vague media regulations. The authorities in the United Arab Emirates monitor and limit the mainstream press and online forms of social media. Most prominent journalists, academics, and human rights activists have been barred from visiting the country or have been punished and arrested for exercising their privilege to freedom of expression offline or online.

The Emirati Media is governed by Federal Statute No. 15 of 1980 on Press and Publication, one of the most stringent laws in the Arab region (“Freedom of the press,” n.d.). The Regulation allows for censorship and earlier distribution of domestic and international periodicals in the republic. The law also makes it unlawful to criticize the government, its sympathizers, or any ruling and governing elite representative (“Freedom of the press,” n.d.). The Federal Legislative Regulation No. 5 of 2012 on countering cybercrime was also utilized to bolster restrictive legislative restrictions (“Freedom of the press,” n.d.) on journalistic freedom.

These stringent laws negatively impact journalism because they restrict the liberty of expression by prohibiting the publication of data, news, or photographs that are generally considered to jeopardize security and, more significantly, preferences or violate the rights of the public order. It also provides for unusual and jail terms if it is broken. Under Article 29, undermining the state’s, rulers’, institutions’, and representatives’ reputations are penalized by the same punishment (United Nation, n.d.). The Regulation also prohibits the dissemination of such views through digital communication, Article 38, and the Online world, Article 24, (United Nation, n.d.) thereby giving authorities broad powers to punish offenders.

Furthermore, the Executive Declaration Act No. 2 of 2015 on equal opportunity restricts press freedom by making it illegal to broadcast and publish controversial material through any medium, including traditional and Internet Media. The Penal Code allows the prosecution of journalists as it was previously revised to strengthen the prosecution of the freedom of speech and expression (“United Arab Emirates’s Constitution of 1971 with Amendments through 2004,” n.d.). Anyone who promotes an opinion detrimental to the nation’s sociocultural unification will face severe penalties under Article 182 of the revamped text.

The National Media Council (NMC), a 2006-established body tasked with granting, refusing and publishing rights and credentialing journalists, keeps an eye on the mainstream press and the content it publishes. The NMC is not an autonomous organization because the presidency gets to appoint its members. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), established in 2003, regulates communication systems and informational technology (“United Arab Emirates’s Constitution of 1971 with Amendments through 2004,” n.d.). It is also accountable for the Regulation of the internet and publishes a list of blocked websites. According to Reporters Without Borders (“United Arab Emirates’s Constitution of 1971 with Amendments through 2004,” n.d.), the TRA includes all websites designed to cover matters associated with human legal protection scenarios, such as the webpage of the Emirates Institute of Human Fundamental freedoms and sometimes even religious concerns.

UAE officials have detained journalists and content creators in the past. Additionally, under the previous section of 2012 Cybercrime legislation, the Emirati law enforcement agencies routinely employ online surveillance on news reporters to further oppress them (“Freedom of the press,” n.d.). In October 2016, Ms. Amina Alabdouli, a young woman of five kids, was condemned to five years in imprisonment for allegedly creating Accounts on Twitter and posting disparaging remarks about the UAE, inciting public commotion (“Amina Al Abdouli detained by Emirati,” 2021). She was also accused of disrespecting the UAE, disseminating false information, and jeopardizing the UAE’s interactions with its allies.

Furthermore, the UAE authorities refuse to regularly acknowledge the press’s direct exposure to trials. Observers and regional and global media were outright rejected entry to the court of law during the well-known UAE94 mass court hearing in July 2012 (“UAE: Prominent academic jailed,” 2017). Dr. Bin Ghaith, a scholar championing for democratic changes and civil rights in the UAE, was apprehended on August 18, 2015, for Twitter posts (“UAE: Prominent academic jailed,” 2017). The posts were seen as a potential danger to the state’s political interests and interactions, putting the region at threat of retaliation from the critiqued government agencies.

Importance of Free Press Today

The privilege to individual liberty of utterance and affirmation gave rise to the conception of media freedom. Media organizations have special rights and responsibilities under the freedom of the press. These rights and protections are granted in recognition of the media’s critical function as a watchdog and informant of society on problems of public concern, as well as the development of a forum for national discourse and engagement. The significance of media freedom stems from the reality that most of the population lacks the competence to gather worth reporting occurrences that can motivate social and political engagement. The Media strives to bridge the gap between civilization and important news occurrences by collecting this information. As a result, the media guarantees the free exchange of communication and opinions critical to the community and the nation’s development.

The goal of an independent media is to guarantee that people have the freedom to receive and transmit content that is not distorted or serves the interests of a single person, entity, or group. Its job, in fact, is to examine those in positions of power, particularly the administration, to ask the tough questions and try to figure out what’s actually going on, irrespective of the political consequences (“Ministry Services,” 2020). Therefore, without a free media, you cannot have much of a democracy. That is because democracy’s effectiveness is in the people’s disposal, which means they must be well-informed to make sound voting judgments.

Freedom of speech and expression will always be a critical component of societal efficiency and evolution. The mainstream media play an essential part in instilling rigorous devotion to human and civil rights, the system of law, and establishing a nation’s sovereignty. The execution of this requirement necessitates a thorough examination of the governments and its institutions’ every activity. By reporting and disseminating accurate information to the entire population, the objective is to keep the administration in check. As a result, journalists have a fundamental obligation to speak out against any dictatorial regime, injustice, or incompetence. Media freedom has played a significant role in encouraging progress, prosperity, and peace in many cultures worldwide. The enormous impact of independent journalism through digital technology has enabled these significant accomplishments.

In conclusion, it is hard to believe that a government could claim to prohibit the enjoyment of free speech and the right of the press. However, this continues to occur, and some media outlets have suffered the consequences for reporting on authoritarian governments’ atrocities. The benefits of exercising free expression are contingent on ethical press coverage and analysis. The insufficiency of a clear consensus of press freedom is at the real motive of the dual standards that exist across legal systems.


Amina Al Abdouli detained by Emirati authorities since 2015. (2021). Mena Rights Group. Web.

Freedom of the Press. (n.d.). Free Press UAE.

Ministry Services. (2020). United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Web.

UAE: Prominent academic jailed for 10 years over tweets in outrageous blow to freedom of expression. (2017). Amnesty International. Web.

“United Arab Emirates’s Constitution of 1971 with Amendments through 2004.” (n.d.). Constitution UAE.

United Nations. (n.d.). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Web.

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1. DemoEssays. "Freedom of the Press in the United Arab Emirates." December 27, 2022.


DemoEssays. "Freedom of the Press in the United Arab Emirates." December 27, 2022.