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28 September, 2004

Rocking the boat

A quick flight to sunny Doha, where it was amusing to see two London broadsheet gentlemen spend half an hour haranguing three hapless bank execs for failing to provide spokespeople for interrogation.

It is not just local and regional companies in the Middle East that make use of the thick burqa of censorship to muffle their daily deeds. International companies setting up in the Gulf are quick to throw on the same robes, which is why MENA-based staff need regular rotation to keep them from becoming as soft, fat and dull as the regional business populace.

Later, one of the hacks bewailed another failure:

"I asked for interviews with several of the sheikhs, but just got nowhere."

Sheikhs are royalty. They hold the reins of power, but they are not elected officers, and are thus unaccountable. Like the Queen of England, they would be no more inclined to comment on a murky little foreign yachting bankruptcy story than they would be to do up their own shoelaces. If they even wore shoelaces, which of course most of them don't.

Their role at a media function is to sit graciously bedishdashed in the front row, and possibly munch on a couple of dates as the endless speeches drone on, while trying not to look too bored. It is a role they perform with quite exquisite competence.

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