Sample Paper on Advertising Regulations in the United arab Emirates

Advertising Regulations in the United Arab Emirates: An Excellent Example of Paradox.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) are a Persian Gulf country, consisting of seven distinct emirates all united together, with Abu Dhabi as the capital emirate.  Dubai, a highly affluent emirate in the UAE, attributes its success especially in the advertising industry, to its geographical locale and zone where salary income is free of taxing (Oxford Business Group, 2007, p.210). The media have progressed from traditional print media to ultramodern media. This paper takes an analytical view on the media’s advertising background and associated regulations. Its central purpose is to unveil the unjust interdictions administered within the contradicting press laws of the UAE, with the intent of refining them for change of a better nation. The features discussed are as follows:

  1. Background of media advertising in the United Arab Emirates:
    • The emergence of media in Arab countries and the UAE.
    • The inception of media advertisements in the UAE.
    • Media advertising in the UAE: Current fashion and trends.
  2. Choice and media preference.
  3. Media expenditure and spending by advertisers.
  4. Media advertising regulations in the UAE.

1.1 Freedom of Speech.

1.2 Professional journalism.

1.3 Plurality of news.

  1. Media regulations in other countries.
  2. Paradox illustration.
  3. Conclusion: Possible remedies for the UAE media disease.
  4. Background of media advertising in the UAE
    • The emergence of media in Arab countries and the UAE

The first Arabian newspapers began during the colonial times when Ottoman was the ruler (Rugh, 2004, p.44). Print houses in Iraq and Syria started publishing newspapers as early as mid-nineteenth century. However, there was a lot enforcement of restraining orders, restricting journalists to publish content supporting the government’s policies and interests (Rugh, 2004, p. 45). The United Arab Emirates’ very first own daily newspaper showed face in 1970. Mass media broadcasting only began after independence, with the set up of radios and televisions (Guaaybess, 2013, p.6).

  • The inception of media advertisements in the UAE

In UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are deemed to be the most economically prosperous and lucrative emirates. With the establishment of the Dubai Media City free zone (DMC), innumerable foreign media firms such as CNN, Bloomberg, BBC World, Reuters, Showtime and MBC among many others have set their businesses in motion here (Oxford Business Group, 2007, pp.210-11). With the launching of the business, these media outlets have immensely increased the number of advertisements in the country, principally emphasizing on real estate developments, automobiles and consumer goods (Oxford Business Group, 2007, p.216).

1.3 Media advertising in the UAE: Current fashion and trends.

  1. Choice and media preference.

Advertisers have endorsed the print media more than the other platforms, the newspaper topping the list (Oxford Business Group, 2007, p.216). The total amount spent on newspaper advertising totaled to 66% of the zone’s expenditure. The magazines come second in the preference list, their expenditure totaling to 16%. The third position goes to the TV advertisements, which are quite unsatisfactory and rock-bottom due to the initiation of the satellite TV.  Its expenditure drastically dropped from “$132m in 2005 to $119m in 2006.” The radio comes last in the list, its expenditure totaling to only 1% (Oxford Business Group, 2007, p.218). Nonetheless, it is deemed as the most targetable approach to the desired audience for the advertisements, as it employs the use of many distinct languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Persian and English.

  1. Media Expenditure and spending by advertisers

It remains the second best advertising zone, following Egypt, in the Gulf region having a 12% share, according to the most recent report by the Pan Arab Research Centre (PARC) (Guaaybess, 2013, p.24). The (PARC) also observed that though the spending magnitude decreased in 2009 by 27%, the UAE still maintained its top position. Currently, Dubai hosts 150 global advertising firms such as Leo and Burnett, Saatchi and Saatchi, Impact and Grey as well as public relations firms such as Hill and Knowlton (Oxford Business Group, 2007, p.218).

  1. Media advertising regulations in the UAE

Media running in United Arab Emirates is currently bound by the 1980 press law that is generally deemed to suppress and inhibit the press freedom (Mohammed, 2009, p.195). Consequently, there is a pending law, Advertising Standards that assures improvement of these stifling restrictions of the 1980 law.  This new law will strengthen guidelines and regulations and ensure that the advertising industry upholds and observes the laws of the land (Siassios & Saleem, 2013). The new law is intended to: induce respect to the local culture, social values, religion; encourage the press freedom of expression; verify that the advertised content is truthful, respectful of personal privacy, nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory.

The law clearly spells out that there must be reverent to all divine religions, Islamic beliefs, political affiliations, local and international policies and the cultural heritage of the land. It also forbids advertising disallowed products such as smoking, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and narcotics among others (Siassios & Saleem, 2013). It particularly outlaws advertising of content infringing public morals that may harm or negatively influence society members, cause incitement of hatred, violence or sectarianism. Also, the law forbids dissemination of misleading news with a goal of maintaining individual privacy. It also calls out for advertising content on pharmaceutical products or medicines to abide by the health advertisements regulations. Inasmuch as it promises the lifting of restrictions, it doesn’t resolve many government controls such as registration, licensing, operations and media governance. These limitations are discussed below:

  • Freedom of speech

In writing, the UAE’s constitution provides the freedom of opinion, speech, communication as well the press expressing itself is assured for within the limits of the law (Mohammed, 2009, p.197). However, when it comes to the real application of the law, the government restricts this same law by using its executive and judicial arms to punish the law violators via prosecution, firing, high fines as well suspension of advertisements. The law and government contradict each other in practice because as one allows for speech freedom, the other vehemently forbids publication of any content that defames heads of states, religious issues and friendly states.

  • Professional journalism

According to the professional indicators of journalism, reporting should be objective, fair and well- sourced covering crucial events and that journalists should not exercise self-censorship (Mohammed, 2009, pp. 199-201). However, this is not in the case in the UAE as freedom of the press is severely hampered by the restrictions imposed on the content published by the media. The government strictly bans the media on advertisement of politically and culturally sensitive material such as national security, government policy, religion/morals, neighboring states and the private sphere. Adherence to these impositions leads to job loss and firings, prosecution, deportation of foreign journalists, transfer to different branches and cuts in salaries and benefits. These government bans affect the credibility, objectivity and professionalism of the media profession and advertisement.

  • Plurality of news

Despite Dubai is residence to 13 national dailies and16 leading TV stations, the diversity of news and advertisements here is still limited (Mohammed, 2009, pp.201-203). Most of these media outlets do not report critical local and political news as they are confined to advertising on positive government activities such as the Emirates News Agency (WAM) and international information. The government places bans on any materials that is deemed to contravene the media laws such as the Jeune Afrique magazine and the Sunday Times a British newspaper. Access to the internet is limited as the cyber police commissioned by the government routinely monitor and filter websites containing content thought to be breaching the laws of the land. It is so acute that the 2006 law on cybercrime affirms imprisonment for anyone who opposes or insults Islam religion.

  1. Media regulations in other countries

Unlike in the Unites Arab Emirates, journalists in other parts of the world are not under harsh authoritarian regulations in terms of registration, licensing, accreditation and freedom of association (“Article 19,” n.d, p.19). In Costa Rica, journalists are free to practice journalism regardless of their academic qualifications, status or age as well as enlist in any associations of their own choice or liking. Although it is an international crime for the media to breach defamation laws, generally, there are no systems that deny to license and register print media as long as the valid required documents has been provided (“Article 19,” n.d., p.17). In 2003, special agencies in the United Nations, Europe and U.S cautioned any licensing/registration bodies against issuing operational constraints of the media as they have a freedom of expression. Actually, most democratic states opt for establishing their own privately held self-regulatory bodies to nurture and advance the profession’s quality and excellence.

  1. Paradox illustration

The many media outlets rarely serve their purpose of investigating and broadcasting matters of public importance, as they are both self-censored and government censored too thus losing its objectivity and credibility (Mohammed, 2009, p.195). The situation here resembles the irony of how the people residing on the coast are dying daily due to lack of sufficient water yet the very coast line is home to sea waters that occupy two thirds of the earth’s surface.

  1. Conclusion: Possible remedies for the UAE media disease

In conclusion, the freedom of expression for the media is of paramount importance and efforts to subdue it are illegitimate (“Article 19,” n.d., p.9) A workable proposal offered for  remedy by (“Article 19,” n.d., p.10), the media actors and journalists should themselves campaign and champion for the freedom of expression, provided it’s within reason. They should have a strong devotion to advertise content deemed to be of public interest, pointing out cases where this freedom has been repressed by the government and challenge the restricting orders from the authorities. These suggestions have been legalized and validated by international courts.



Article 19. (n.d.) International standards for the media: Briefing notes on the basic principles of journalism. Retrieved from

Ayish, M.I. (2013) National broadcasting and state policy in Arab countries. Guaaybess, T. (Ed.) New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mohamed, A.  (2009) Media Index Sustainability 2009: United Arab Emirates.  Retrieved from

Oxford Business Group. (2007). The Report: Dubai 2007. Dubai: AE. Oxford Business Group.

Rugh, W.A. (2004). Arab mass media: Newspapers, radio, and television in Arab politics. Kansas, MO: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Siassios, A., & Saleem, S. (February, 2013) Advertising standards for the UAE. Law update. Retrieved from