The Dubai Font comes with built-in restrictions on using it for free expression
The new Dubai Font that was launched with much fanfare by the Dubai government and Microsoft earlier this week was quickly shot down by people who pointed out that promotional slogans like “Expression has no boundaries or limits” were completely at odds with the UAE’s draconian restrictions against free expression. As Human Rights Watch’s Nicholas McGeehan and others have pointed out on Twitter , a look at the fine print (no pun attempted) very much bears that out: the Dubai government wants to retain control over what people say while using the font.
First, those terms assert that use of the font is governed by UAE law, and that “You hereby irrevocably submit to the jurisdiction of the Courts of the Emirate of Dubai.”
This means that you submit to the same justice system where detention without charge or trial is rampant, officials routinely use forced confessions as “evidence,” and prosecutors have the power to deny detainees access to lawyers, who don’t have much ability to influence the outcome of a case anyway because judges just do what the executive branch of the government tells them to do .
The UAE’s “public morals” include the the jailing of women for reporting rape and the detention of human-rights activists for peacefully expressing their views . Meanwhile, something “offensive” is often some innocuous act that an official arbitrarily decides is “offensive,” usually after you’ve done it. Just ask the man who was prosecuted for posting a picture of a fox on Facebook or the artist who was jailed for pointing out an illegally-parked car .
If you think you won’t be affected because you don’t live in the UAE, think again: one day, you could be changing planes in Dubai on your way to London or Delhi and be detained because UAE officials consider you a wanted “ fugitive .”
The Dubai Font doesn’t leave much room to #ExpressYou.