In March 2018, the United Arab Emirates National Media Council (“NMC“) issued the National Media Council Electronic Media Regulation of 2018 (the “Electronic Media Regulations“) for the purpose of governing online media activities.
The Electronic Media Regulations came into force in June 2018 and state, among other things, that any entity or person providing “electronic advertisements” will be required to hold a licence issued by the NMC.
According to the NMC, “electronic advertisements” includes influencers and bloggers where they are using online platforms to advertise a third party’s products in exchange for payment (which can either be money or something else of value such as a free product).
Accordingly, influencers creating posts or blogs on social media for commercial purposes will be required to hold a NMC licence as well as a trade licence to operate as a business in the UAE. The process to obtain a NMC licence involves submitting an application form together with any required supporting documentation and the payment of a licensing fee (ranging between USD 275 and 4,100). If successful, the licence becomes valid for one year and is then renewable subject to payment of renewal fees.
In addition, the Cabinet Decision No. 23 of 2017 on Media Content – on which the Electronic Media Regulations are built – states that all paid advertising material must be explicitly and clearly stated as paid advertising material (for example, clear hashtags).
On a separate note, the Electronic Media Regulations require all content posted online to respect the UAE’s religious, social and cultural values. Influencers, and their respective brands and marketing agencies, should therefore tread carefully with posts which may be considered immoral or offensive in the UAE.
The NMC has announced that failure to comply may trigger fines, official warnings or a requirement to shut down the infringing social media account. According to reports, fines of approximately USD 1,500 could be issued to offenders.