Freedom of the Press - United Arab Emirates (2005)

Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 26
Political Influences: 24
Economic Pressures: 22
Total Score: 72

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 74
Religious Groups: Muslim [Shia (16 percent)] (96 percent), other (4 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Emirati (19 percent), other Arab and Iranian (23 percent), South Asian (50 percent), European and East Asian (8 percent)
Capital: Abu Dhabi

The constitution provides for freedom of the press, but the government restricts this right in practice. The law prohibits criticism of the government, ruling families, and friendly governments, as well as other statements considered a threat to social stability, and violators are subject to imprisonment. However, the laws are rarely enforced because journalists practice self-censorship. The Ministry of Information licenses all publications and must approve the appointment of editors.

While the government no longer subsidizes all private newspapers, most rely on the government-owned Emirates News Agency for a portion of their content. The leading private print media outlets frequently publish government statements without criticism or comment. 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. The 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. Authorities censor pornographic, radical Islamic, and antigovernment sites.

Dubai features a free media zone, created in 2000 to attract regional and international media with low tax rates and relative press freedom. Within the zone, few restrictions are imposed on print and broadcast media meant for foreign audiences.

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