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24 May, 2005

The undistinguished hack pack

The Economist has published an online city guide to Dubai, which makes some interesting and pertinent comments, in particular on the disappointing Dubai media:

"The UAE’s policy of self-censorship means that local newspapers and websites read like publicity organs. Governments (Federal and emirate) submit newspaper press releases—heralding new initiatives and official visits—which are then published nearly verbatim. Criticising a member of a ruling family is not tolerated, and every newspaper (and, it seems, radio and TV station) does whatever its advertisers say. Even the privately owned media is owned by influential UAE national family members who know they must toe the line.

"Journalists in Dubai tend to be an undistinguished bunch. There are few budding al-Woodwards or al-Bernsteins bursting to publish the scoop of the decade, if only their editors would let them. Pretty much the only decent copy in newspapers is news agency copy, or syndicated copy from The Economist, the New York Times or the Financial Times."

Its comment on censorship is somewhat less accurate: "in women's magazines... the smallest glimpse of cleavage or buttock will be rigorously blacked out". In fact in current times there is rarely more than a thin black line through the nipples of a Sun Page 3 girl, with plenty of cleavage remaining in sight above and below.

Occasionally one spots a more fervent censor, such as the one who blacked out popstar Robbie Williams' upper chest in an imported UK magazine. But perhaps they were more offended by the presence of man-boobs than nudity.

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