United Arab Emirates Government and Media
Government Type: The UAE is a constitutional federation of seven emirates (sheikhdoms). The rulers of the seven emirates constitute the Federal Supreme Council and the relative political and financial influence of each emirate is weighted by their number of positions in the federal government.
Head of the State: President Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. (The ruler of Abu Dhabi, whose emirate is the UAE’s major oil producer)
Head of the Government: Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (The ruler of Dubai, which is the UAE’s commercial center, is vice president and prime minister.)
Political Party: Political parties are prohibited in the UAE. The rulers hold power on the basis of their dynastic position and their legitimacy in a system of tribal consensus.
World Press Freedom Rank: United Arab Emirates (UAE) 131/180
Under the UAE’s constitution, Sharia Islamic religious law is a principal source of the law especially in matters of social law such as family issues and divorce, while other matters are handled in courts and tribunals. Criticism of the ruling families, government, religion, or friendly governments is censored in the UAE through the National Media Council (NMC). The NMC is responsible for licensing all publications, governing press content, and applying censorship on domestic and foreign publications. Members of the council are appointed by the UAE’s president. Therefore, the ruling family and government have significant powers to censor, resulting in self-censorship among the journalists due to fear of government retribution.
Government Influence on Media: Many media outlets, including TV, radio stations, and newspapers are directly owned by the government through Abu Dhabi Media, such as Al Ittihad and Al Bayan newspapers. As of 2020, Abu Dhabi Media became a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company (ADDHC). ADDHC shares are owned by the government but the enterprise operates as an independent corporation with financial and administrative autonomy. Other media outlets are privately owned such as English/Arabic language newspapers, Al Khaleej, and Gulf News. Although they are privately owned, the owners are typically closely linked to the government such as Gulf News/Al Nisr Publishing owner Obaid Humaid Al Tayer who is the Minister of State for Financial Affairs of the UAE. He is also Chairman of Emirates Telecommunication Group Etisalat which operates an Internet content filtering system. The government of UAE restricts access to some Internet sites that are claimed to be offensive or harmful such as those publishing negative comments about Islam, the government, or ruling families. Negative commenting is punishable by law, therefore press self-censorship is common.
In conclusion, the United Arab Emirates government and ruling families have direct and indirect control over media outlets and the news. Therefore news related to the government or ruling families tends to be positive and praising of their achievements, while criticism is punished, resulting in significant government and self-censorship.