ICFUAE | International Campaign For Freedom in the UAE

ICFUAE | International Campaign For Freedom in the UAE
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The Dubai Font comes with built-in restrictions on using it for free expression

11 months 2 weeks

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.

The Dubai font is available for download from a Government of Dubai website whose  Terms of Use  come with some striking restrictions.

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 .

Second, the Terms of Use prohibit use of the font “in any manner that goes against the public morals of the United Arab Emirates or which is offensive or an affront to the local culture and/or values of the United Arab Emirates.”

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 . 

So, let’s imagine you use the Dubai font to say something like “The use of torture by UAE officials is bad” or even “It  rained  heavily yesterday in the UAE and roads are flooded.” That could be a violation of the Terms of Use and, if you’re in the UAE, you could be thrown in prison for allegedly violating one or more of the UAE’s  laws  prohibiting free expression.

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.


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