Film Policing and Censorship in the UAE


            The political system of the UAE is a mixture of the modern and the traditional and for the past years, this has given the countries that are part of the UAE, an opportunity to adapt to this unique blend of culture in the region. For the most part, this distinct culture in the UAE has benefitted all countries in the region in the sense that all media affairs are being regulated for the good of the people (UAE Interact, 2007). In the year 2006, the National Media Council and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community have been established to perform the regulatory and oversight role on the media. These two primary bodies of media were in charge of overseeing the development and implementation of all media initiatives in the entire UAE region. The scope also includes the filmmaking and other new, non-traditional types of media such as the Internet (UAE Interact, 2007).

            When it comes to the management of media, the governments under the UAE perform limited scopes of power. This is primarily because although the UAE constitution respects and guarantees to all citizens their individual right to freedom of expression, the UAE government is also concerned with preventing any form of abuse on the media especially of those in power (Chubb, 2010). In line with this, the UAE’s National Media Council issues and withholds clearances to all media activities and initiatives being implemented in the region. The said council has the power to perform regulatory roles in all media activities in the UAE region. Specifically, the council has the power to censor anything that they find to be inconsistent or are not in line with the moral, political, cultural and religious values in the country (Chubb, 2010).

The UAE’s National Media Council is focused on addressing media-related issues on pornography, religion (e.g., the insult on the Islam faith) as well as any form of criticism or attack on the rulers of the countries in the UAE. The National Media Council has the power to ban or to censor any material that contains negative personal opinions of the people that violate or offend the dignity of other people (Watson, 2008). Media materials that contain violations on public order and discipline as well as materials that directly insult a certain group of people or sector in the UAE communities may be banned by the National Media Council. Also, media materials that circulate rebellious ideas especially among the young people may be prohibited by the council. Moreover, the council may also impose prohibition on any media material that instigates criminal activities as well as demonstrates actions that are in direct opposition to the individuals in the society (Watson, 2008).


In 2005, the American movie entitled “Brokeback Mountain” was banned in the UAE due to its sensitive content. In fact, the whole film was not allowed by the National Media Council to push through with its screening in any country within the UAE region as the values being propagated in the film were in direct opposition and are in conflict with the Islamic morals (Dagher, 2006). The Brokeback Mountain was a film about two cowboys (males) who fell in love with each other in the West American setting. The theme of the movie was about homosexuality and there were explicit scenes in the film which the council found to be in direct conflict with the morals and values of Islam. In fact, homosexuality itself is considered up until today as a very serious offense that is punishable by imprisonment and by flogging. Since the film was in direct opposition to the main values of Islam, the movie was heavily censored and banned in the UAE including all its web-based screenings (Dagher, 2006).

Another film that has been recently censored in the UAE was “Black Swan”, a 2010 film that was totally prohibited from screening in all countries in the UAE due to the film’s excessive and explicit sexual content and message (Al Lawati, 2011). The film apparently showed lesbian love scenes which were also in contrast to the values and moral standards of the Islam faith. The council reasoned that such films may propagate wrong values to the youth that may ultimately lead to their wrongdoings and actions (Al Lawati, 2011).

            Personally, I agree with the film policing and censorship in the UAE because the goal is to protect the moral values of the people in the society. Without high moral standards and values, it would be difficult to run and govern a country peacefully and maintain order. According to the duty-based theory which is concerned with “what people do or act upon”, the right thing must be done and the wrong thing must be avoided. In this context, the wrong thing is anything that propagates immorality, violence, crime and rebellion among people through media. The two movies “Brokeback Mountain” and “Black Swan” propagate immorality by instilling in the people that homosexuality and homosexual acts must be accepted by the conservative societies in the same way that the West has embraced them.

            Clearly, these two movies’ contents are not only against the moral standards of Islam but also are in contrast to the moral behaviors and thinking that the UAE societies and communities must adopt. The duty-based theory therefore pushes the government to do something about preventing the spread of immorality and wrong sexual values being propagated by such films. It is the government, through the National Media Council of the UAE, that is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all people are doing the right thing because the right thing to do will benefit them as well as avoid doing the wrong thing because the wrong things may possibly harm them in the long run. Under the duty-based theory, the National Media Council’s act of banning “Brokeback Mountain” and “Black Swan” is justified. It is not for any other reason that the National Media Council banned these two films but for the main reason that these films may pose harm on the people and the communities and may also damage their Islamic values which are fundamental to maintaining a peaceful and orderly society. On the other hand, I also disagree with censorship because somehow



Al Lawati, A. (2011). Two upcoming Hollywood films banned in UAE for explicit content.

Chubb, L. (2010). Censorship in the UAE.

Dagher, S. (2006). ‘Tolerant’ Dubai censors two US films.

UAE Interact. (2007). Media and culture.

Watson, I. (2008). Dubai’s media censors tackle news, sex and politics.


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