Freedom of the Press
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United Arab Emirates
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Though the constitution provides for freedom of the press, there are laws that prohibit criticism of the government, ruling families, and friendly governments, and outlaw other statements considered a threat to social or economic stability. However, these laws rarely need to be enforced as journalists often practice self-censorship. The Ministry of Information licenses all publications and must approve the appointment of editors.
The press in Dubai's Media City, a tax-free zone established in 2001 to draw in foreign investment and an emerging area of media freedom in the UAE, faced increased restrictions in 2005. In February, Basma Al-Jandaly, a reporter for Dubai's leading English daily, Gulf News, was harassed by police after she reported on a series of attacks on women in Sharjah, Dubai's neighboring province. The police maintained that she had interfered in their investigation. On June 15, Jandaly was briefly held at the Dubai airport as police informed her she was banned from traveling due to her reporting in Sharjah. She was released after Minister of the Interior Sheikh Seif Zayed al-Nahyan intervened, but now removes her name from police stories that could be seen as problematic. Also in June, the publishers of FO, a Dubai-based men's magazine, had their license revoked after publishing a revealing picture of singer Kylie Minogue. The United Arab Emirates Journalists' Association reported there had been at least 10 lawsuits filed against journalists in Dubai in 2005, a record number. After the release of Al-Jandaly in June, the Dubai Court of Cassation passed a ruling that granted journalism the same right of protection enjoyed by other intellectual work. It has yet to be seen what impact the ruling will have on media freedom. Outside of Media City, most television and radio stations are government owned and conform to unpublished government reporting guidelines. Self-censorship is pervasive in local reporting outside of Dubai and media outlets frequently publish government statements without criticism or comment.
Despite restrictions on the media in 2005, there have been reports that print media outlets have become bolder in criticizing government performance and even the system of government. While the main pan-Arab dailies are available and uncensored, other foreign newspapers, magazines, and periodicals are vetted by censors at the Ministry of Information. Though domestic broadcast media are almost entirely state owned and offer only official viewpoints, satellite dishes are common and international broadcasts are not explicitly censored. Internet access is widespread, although access is provided via a state-owned monopoly that censors sites pertaining to pornography, gambling, religious conversion, dating, gay and lesbian sites, and illegal drugs. For a brief period last year the website of the New York Times was blocked by the Dubai Telephone Company. More than 35 percent of the population had access to the internet in 2005.