Oops! The COP28 hosts REALLY don’t want us journalists to Jest about their Rulers

Are you prone to panning princes and potentates? Maybe like to chastise Britain’s King Charles III — who is delivering the opening address at the upcoming COP28 climate talks — for swooning over plants in his garden?

In the case of the U.K. monarch, feel free to go ahead — he comes from a country where ribbing royalty is almost a national sport, all tolerated in the spirit of good fun and the freedom of expression endorsed in a democracy.

In the collection of kingdoms that make up much of the Mideast, not so much. Criticism of the emirs, sheikhs and kings there can induce incarceration, fines and other penalties.

And so it was that the United Arab Emirates — the seven-nation collective that is hosting COP28, which starts at the end of this month — put out strict rules against publishing news articles that could upset any of the ruling families.

The constraints on news reporters were spelled out in a “Media Content Standards” document issued by the UAE Media Regulatory Office and posted to the website of the United Nations climate agency on Oct. 23. In it were instructions for journalists and media outlets to “refrain from publishing anything that could offend directly or indirectly the ruling regime of the State” or that “could be offensive to the national unity and social cohesion.”

And it went higher. Into the heavens. “Respect God, Islamic belief, heavenly or monotheistic religions, and refrain from offending any of that, including embodiment or personification of prophets and messengers.”

“Monotheistic?” Er, tough luck, you Hindus.

It really is quite unbelievable. Doubt it? Then read it here.

That’s the bad news. The good is that it is now toppled — just like a few sovereigns have been over the years — and removed from the UN website.

The UAE had an excuse: “The document in question is an old guide. Its content is out of date and not relevant for media attending COP28,” a spokesperson told Politico/E&E News after the outlet made enquiries. “It has been removed from the [U.N. climate agency] website where it was posted erroneously.”

And somewhere there’s a bridge for sale. You can also bet this is not the end of this story.

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