UAE Ends Censorship of Films in Latest Rebranding Push

Media regulator in the UAE introduces 21+ age category, instead of the current practice of removing whole scenes deemed offensive

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Pedestrians at the Bluewaters Island in Dubai, UAE, earlier this month.
Pedestrians at the Bluewaters Island in Dubai, UAE, earlier this month.Credit: Satish Kumar/Reuters

The United Arab Emirates announced on Sunday that it will no longer censor films released in cinemas, the country’s latest effort to boost its brand as a liberal hub attractive to foreigners.

Instead of cutting sensitive scenes that could offend traditional Islamic sensibilities, the Emirati Media Regulatory Authority will introduce a new 21+ age category for viewers.

“The movies will be screened in cinemas according to their international version,” the authority said in a Twitter post.

Censors in the UAE, like elsewhere in the Middle East, have long removed scenes in cinematic releases that show nudity, homosexuality, sex and other content deemed inappropriate — sometimes leading to plot holes.

Foreigners outnumber locals nearly nine to one in the federation of seven sheikhdoms. The diversity of culture and religion in the tourism-dependent country has at times been at odds with its Islamic laws and traditions.

But that’s changing as the nation promotes its socially liberal environment to lure international workers. The government has reformed its Islamic legal code and next year will change its weekend to Saturday-Sunday to align with the Western businesses and markets.

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