Abu Dhabi’s censor-in-chiefset to takecharge at the Telegraph

Abu Dhabi’s censor-in-chiefset to takecharge at the Telegraph


“In addition to Mr. Zucker, the key players in the new venture, known as RedBird IMI, are Gerry Cardinale, the chief executive and founder of RedBird, and Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, an Emirati government minister who has spearheaded many of IMI’s investment conversations in the United States. Mr. Cardinale is the chief investment officer of RedBird IMI, and Mr. Al Jaber is chairman.”

Read more: thetimes.co.uk

In  June 2023, the UAE banned the animated film Spider-man: Across the Spider-verse. The film did not pass UAE censorship requirements because of an easy-to-miss scene that shows a rainbow flag that reads ‘Protect Trans Kids.’ The Spider-Man sequel joined a long list of movies banned or censored in the UAE over LGBT+ content. The list includes Pixar’s “Lightyear,” Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” and Marvel’s “Eternals.”

The UAE government’s ban on LGBT content

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has implemented strict regulations to suppress LGBT+ content, including movies, books, and online material.

All forms of homosexuality are under criminal provisions in the UAE, and LGBT+ representation is heavily censored. The UAE government has a history of blocking websites and “inappropriate” online content. In August 2022, Gulf states (including the UAE) asked Netflix to remove “offensive content” from their platform. Saudi Arabia state TV described Netflix as the “official sponsor of homosexuality.” In June 2022, Amazon blocked more than 150 LGBTQ-related search keywords in the UAE after the Government threatened the company.

Censorship is not limited to LGBT content. UAE also censors criticism of the ruling families, Government, or religion. UAE ranks 173 of 174 countries in the global ranking index tracking the state of free expression developed by the Index on Censorship and experts in machine learning and journalism at Liverpool John Moores University. Only Yemen performs poorer than the UAE across all metrics.

UAE’s infamous Ministry of Truth

The UAE has a federal institution that controls the media and entertainment industry in the country and has the authority to issue bans on any specific media products based on various criteria, including inconsistency with the “country values.” The agency was founded in 2006 under the name the National Media Council (NMC). Following its merger with the Ministry of Culture, its name was changed to the Media Regulatory Office in 2021.

According to Reporter without Borders, UAE’s censors “hunt down content that criticizes government decisions or threatens «social cohesion» – terms vague enough to include any content that does not conform to government requirements.” (https://rsf.org/en/country/united-arab-emirates)  Blocked material includes sites with LGBT+ content, atheism, negative critiques of Islam, testimonies of former Muslims who converted to Christianity. (https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/united-arab-emirates/)

Before heading COP28, Sultan AL Jaber was UAE’s head censor

For more than five years, the agency in control of media censorship in the United Arab Emirates was headed by Sultan Al Jaber. Al Jaber has recently gained worldwide attention as the oil baron designated to lead this year’s global climate summit, the COP28.

Before heading Cop28, Sultan al Jaber headed UAE’s “Ministry of Truth.” Sultan Al Jaber was appointed Chairman of the National Media Council (NMC) in May 2015 and led the Council for more than five years until the structure merged with the Ministry of Culture.

As Chairman of the NMC, Al Jaber set the direction and policies of media regulation in the country, approved or denied licenses, permits, or distribution of media content, determined what content is acceptable for public consumption, and ensured that decisions are taken against media outlets or content creators that violate censorship guidelines.

Al Jaber authored some of the most restrictive censorship regulations in the world

The 1980 Federal Law on Publications and Publishing, one of the most restrictive laws currently in force in the Arab world, controls the Emirati media. In addition to the 1980 law, the Council of Ministers issued Decree No. 23 of 2017 on media content. The Decree gave the National Media Council the right to pass further regulation in the area.

On 7 December 2017, Sultan Al Jaber issued the “Resolution of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Media Council  No.26 of 2017, in respect of the media content”. Al Jaber’s resolution stipulates that:

– NMC is the institution responsible for censoring books, films, and media (print, audio-video, and electronic). Its jurisdiction extends to any person circulating any printed materials, including those brought or sent to him from/to abroad.

– NMC imposes sanctions on the violators.

– NMC forbids any content criticizing the UAE political and religious rulers, UAE’s friendly countries, Government policies and programs, UAE’s economic, judicial, or security system, etc.

– NMC censors any phrase, paragraph, page, picture, scene, or part of the printed material

NMC is the authority to approve book fairs.

(doc 1)

The UAE has a “Websites Censorship Committee.” Sultan Al Jaber regulated it

The UAE Government Decree No. 23 of 2017 on media content stipulated the formation of a “Website Control Committee” headed by a National Media Council representative.

On 28 February 2018, Sultan Al Jaber released a set of digital media regulations, the “Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Media Council Resolution No. (3) of 2018 on Organizing E-media Activities”

According to the Resolution:

– All online activities, including news websites, electronic publishing outlets, and on-demand printing, including commercial activities conducted through social media within the UAE, must first get a media license from the NMC, allowing them to operate in the country.

– NMC is the institution responsible for censoring electronic media.

– Electronic media must comply with NMC’s instructions and rules for practicing media activities.

– NMC leads and hosts a structure called “The Websites Censorship Committee.” The Committee includes representatives of the United Arab Emirates intelligence agency (the Signal Intelligence Agency).

– The NMC Chairman can decide to block any websites and any keywords on the recommendation of the Committee for Monitoring the Websites.

(doc 2)

In September 2023, a global coalition of over 200 civil society groups published an open letter, calling on the governments attending COP28 to address the UAE’s appalling human rights track record. The letter called for COP28 to shine a spotlight on the human rights violations against prisoners of conscience, migrant workers, women, and LGBT+ communities and to pressure the UAE to stop censoring and controlling Internet usage and communication networks.

Prospects for the demands of the civil society to be met are extremely low. The president of Cop 28 used to enforce UAE’s draconic censorship policies. Some of which he wrote himself.

Written by Eagle

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