United Arab Emirates
|B ASIC D ATA|
|Official Country Name:||United Arab Emirates|
|Region (Map name):||Middle East|
|Language(s):||Arabic, Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu|
Previously known as the Trucial States, The United Arab Emirates ( Al Imarat al Arabiyah al Muttahidah or UAE) is located just north of Oman and is bordered on the east by the Arabian Sea and on the west by Saudi Arabia. The UAE was formed in 1971 upon gaining its independence from Great Britain; in 1972 the final emirate ( imarah ) joined creating the current composition of the country. Composed of seven emirates—Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi), 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah (Sharjah), Dubayy (Dubai), Ra's al Khaymah, Umm al Qaywayn— each functioning with significant autonomy, the UAE is ruled by a Supreme Council of Rulers composed of one emir from each emirate. The council appoints the prime minister and the cabinet. The president and vice president are elected by the seven council members.
The UAE hosts the region's largest free trade zone in Dubai, seeks to attract tourists, actively tries to diversify its economy, and is considered one of the more liberal/ tolerant countries in the region. Yet there remains much of the rigidity typically found in the Gulf region. For instance, the constitution and a 1996 telecommunications law guarantees freedom of speech, but strong regulatory/ political media content control is practiced. Seeming to contradict the constitution, a 1988 law was implemented requiring the licensing by the Ministry of Education of all publications and also outlines topics of reporting that are allowable. While there are gray areas left open to conjecture, journalists practice self-censorship on subjects concerning members of ruling families, government policy, religion/morals, national security, and neighboring states in order to avoid sanctions.
The press is subsidized by government funding, but is essentially privately owned. Foreign press is censored at point of entry—as is typical in the Gulf region—again seeming contradictory to free speech laws. Notwithstanding, the press is burgeoning.
Newspaper dailies in the country include: Al Bayan (The Official Report, circulation of 68,845), Al Eqtisadiah (75,000), Al Fajr (The Dawn, 28,000), Emirates News (21,150), Gulf News (91,354), The Gulf Today (36,000), Al-Ittihad (Unity, 58,000), Al Khaleej (The Gulf, 114,800), Khaleej Times (66,204), UAE and Abu Dhabi Official Gazette, and Al Wadah (Unity, 20,000). Additionally, there are a plethora of other publications produced spanning the spectrum of commerce (business and consumer), political and religious concerns.
In February 2000 an electronic/broadcast free-zone was created and officially inaugurated in 2001 on the outskirts of Dubai. Within this zone are Dubai Media City (DMC) costing U.S. $817 million to build, and two other projects called Dubai Internet City (DIC) and the Dubai Idea Oasis (DIO). All organizations working from within this zone are not subject to the UAE's press/broadcast laws; they are completely free to practice their trade. This has prompted an enthusiastic response from media organizations. Many are locating an arm of their organization or completely relocating to the area. Included are: Reuters, Microsoft, MasterCard, Oracle, Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC, a Saudi-owned organization that is the Arab world's largest satellite television station relocating from London), Sony, Zen TV, Middle East Business News, and the like. A good example of the new freedoms allowed includes Zen TV. Zen TV is being broadcast from the DMC and is one of the most open programs ever to be broadcast in the Arab region. It is aimed at 16-to 35-year-olds and covers topics normally taboo, such as sex, love and politics. The new policies of the DMC are bringing the UAE into competition with Egyptian and Lebanese programs that traditionally have dominated the market.
However, outside of the free-zone, all electronic media remain constrained and subject to the UAE's press laws. Yet, even in traditional UAE space Direct Satellite Broadcasting (DBS) has hampered the government's efforts to control content. Despite this, satellite dishes are legally allowed, with around 70 percent of the population owning one.
Most of the radio (13 AM, seven FM, and two short-wave) and television (15 total) stations available outside the free-zone are owned by the government with a few notable exceptions. These stations broadcast to around 820,000 radios and 310,000 televisions in the country.
Internet users in the UAE—estimated at 400,000 or around 17 percent of the population—are the largest number of users by country in the Persian Gulf, but there is only one Internet service provider in the country, the government-operated Etisalat.
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Clint B. Thomas Baldwin