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28 February, 2005

Publish and be quite literally damned

Despite apparent royal backing for freedom of the press, the reality of Gulf journalism is a thick web of censorship, distortion and outright official lies.

Witness the plight of a certain UAE tabloid rag. In its early days (2003-4), the paper received repeated and systematic interference from free zone authorities, forcing it to relocate. After printing an article mentioning Dubai and terror funds, the editors received an instant ministerial visit and nearly lost their print license.

UAE press "law" does not just protect the interests and reputations of local rulers. It also prohibits publishing anything detrimental about other regional leaders, even reported criticism from other sources. One strategy around this is to blame an entire country rather than its president. If someone calls Hosni Mubarak a liar, a UAE paper cannot report: "Mubarak a liar, says..." Instead, it has to put: "Egypt a liar, says..." Hardly great for democratic progress.

But while the rich and royal continue to enjoy a cloak of silence draping their darker deeds, the less wealthy and wusta-ed increasingly find their peccadilloes splashed across the front pages. Such is the case of Salem M, a diplomatic type in the US stung for an alleged Studabaker.

"A national working at the UAE Embassy in Washington is at the centre of a diplomatic incident.

"Salem M., 40, was arrested after he turned up in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, allegedly expecting to have a relationship with a 13-year-old girl.

"The diplomat was quickly released after two hours in custody, claiming diplomatic immunity. Bedford County prosecutors are asking UAE authorities to waive that immunity."

It will be interesting to see how the UAE reacts.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Follow-up to this story:

09 December, 2005 01:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

intrsting read.......yellow journalism is the ruler here. even if it hides the intricate truths of peral of the gulf it still provides some indiviuals with a fake sense of cocoon like protection, if u know wat i mean.


26 January, 2006 17:37  

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