In December 2023, the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced Federal Decree Law No. 55/2023 on the Regulation of Media. The new law is wide ranging as it extends to individuals, organisations and media outlets both on the mainland and in free zones.  Media businesses operating outside the UAE but delivering media content within the UAE will also be subject to the new regulatory requirements.

Media Activities 

Under this decree, media activities are defined to include production, circulation and the printing, publishing and broadcasting of media content. This encompasses audio, video and digital content as well as media activities such as book fairs and foreign media offices, which all require specific licenses and permits under the law. 

Media Classification & Permits

This legislation directs the organisation of the relevant authorities of the UAE Media Council (the Council) as well as local government entities concerned with the regulation of media affairs in the UAE and delineates their respective authorities. The Council is tasked with issuing cinema permits and screening cinematographic productions. The Council will also oversee the classification of media content via the Media Content Rating System which covers the classification of books and printed media, video games, and cinematic and creative productions and determines suitable viewer age groups. Permits for individuals advertising on social media platforms will also be required and issued by the Council, regardless of whether such activities are being carried out on a paid or unpaid basis.

Media Content Standards 

Article 17 of the law sets out national standards for media content. These include requirements to respect Islamic beliefs, the UAE’s sovereignty, symbols and institutions, the directions and policies of the country at both local and international levels, and the national identity and values of UAE society.

Supervision & Penalties

The decree also mandates that licensed entities and individuals be subject to oversight and supervision by the competent authority. The legislation provides for the Council to conduct surveillance and inspection of individuals, media outlets and other media entities, both on the mainland and in free zones. 

Additionally, the Council, in coordination with the competent authorities will supervise and promote the protection of intellectual property among individuals, establishments and media institutions in the UAE.

The new law will impose penalties on companies for breaches of the regulations, with administrative fines of up to AED 2 million as well as possible license revocations and suspension or temporary closure of media institutions.

Next Steps

Individuals, organisations, and media outlets have been given a twelve-month window, extendable by Cabinet decision, to adhere to the new law and its Executive Regulations. Individuals and organisations should, therefore, assess what the potential implications of this new legislation might be in relation to their respective media activities and consider preparing a more focused impact report.