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17 April, 2008

The Grand National

A new newspaper, the Abu Dhabi-based The National, has entered the sandlands media scene. There is already plenty of comment on it, from praise to scorn.

But the inescapable fact is that no matter how sparkling the prose or spectacular the photography, a "news" publication can only go so far in a regime of severe media oppression. The fact that the UAE government bans blogs that are "critical" of it speaks for itself: how pathetic and contemptible that some of the richest and most powerful people on earth can't take a little dissent. So The National is about as likely to push the envelope as Sheikh Khalifa is to move to Sonapur.

Perhaps the kindest interpretation of The National is as a kind of landlubbing in-flight magazine for Abu Dhabi. We learn that Abu Dhabi is a magical place (isn't magic illegal in the UAE?) and how praiseworthy the UAE military is, and how preservation-worthy the UAE national identity is, and how failed reviled liar former British prime minister Tony Blair is silver-tongueing a few sheikhly backsides, but does anyone really care?

The truth of The National is that it is an Abu Dhabi government-owned, Abu Dhabi government-funded, Abu Dhabi government-run, Abu Dhabi government-promoting Abu Dhabi rag. It may be well-written and an interesting read for that. But that doesn't make it a news publication of international calibre, which given the quality of its staff is very sad.

Comments

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23 Comments:

Blogger Kyle said...

You missed hyper-linking the first & one of a kind cloak & dagger dudes at The National. For my inflight reading entertainment, I’d prefer GQ.

17 April, 2008 22:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AUH bought Le Louvre Museum. Newspaper Le Monde is bankrupt. Would have been simpler to buy it.

17 April, 2008 23:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Visiting Cairo and able to read your blog from its original URL. Hooray for the non-censoring govt of Egypt!

18 April, 2008 09:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey there,

this is the first time i read your blog and i found it amazing ..anyway...since u r expert in dubai why dont you write some stories about the homesexual in dubai(((the gays)))?? if you want some informations then im ready to send them to u about that.

cheers.

18 April, 2008 10:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's to read about gays in Dubai? They are part of the Culture and Establishment.

http://www.keepingupwithjonas.com/keeping_up_with_jonas/2007/11/uae-royal-to-be.html

No big deal or controversy. Legally Homosexuality does not exist in the UAE.

Oh! And there is censorship in Egypt but the Govt. only sensors Egyptian news, they could not care less about UAE

18 April, 2008 11:51  
Blogger secretdubai said...

since u r expert in dubai why dont you write some stories about the homesexual in dubai(((the gays)))??

I am very happy to write about the UAE gay scene if you want to email me something (my username here at gmail) however I would want to avoid anything that might endanger or make things difficult for any gay people living there.

18 April, 2008 11:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ anon 11:51 - I've checked a few of the possinilities and they are :open". Do you know of any specifically blocked? Mona's (http://www.monaeltahawy.com/blog ) available.

18 April, 2008 22:45  
Blogger Mistreated Guest said...

I thought comments here would be on The Media in UAE. Anyhow, I have been advised on occasion to go the "Media" regarding my used-razor-blade incident with The Fairmont. After finding out who owns it, I'd rather stick to my blog/openletter. Then again, exactly where is the line drawn on what and whom you could criticize here?

19 April, 2008 10:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is not a single newspaper in the UAE thats worth the paper its written on! thank goodness for news podcasts.

i see that etisalat & DU (tweedle deedle dee & tweedle deele dumb) have blocked this blog, perhaps you should start a podcast.

20 April, 2008 13:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'He who pays the piper calls the tune'
Who's bankrolling the paper?
I think we all know the answer to that one!
Will it challenge the frontiers of UAE journalism and get behind the stories of exploited labourers and maids forced to work as prostitutes? Somehow I don't think so, we don't want people to really know what goes on under the surface of UAE society do we?

20 April, 2008 13:39  
Blogger Terrified of Nothing said...

Nicely put, SD. Couldn't agree more. I'm happy getting around the content filter is really simple, so I can still enjoy your blog... and more importantly, porn ;D.

20 April, 2008 21:34  
Blogger who is said...

I'm the guy who built the mousetrap that censored you. Tried to contest the ban on the grounds of no porno being here and a huge (-ly exaggerated by me) number of customer complaints but someone at the TRA really hates you. For which I say "well done"!

Well done because I do believe that your little blog here has wielded a very real influence by proxy (how ironic). I know that most of the local media schleps have followed this blog at one time or another - the quotations/articles specifically about or from SDD in Emirates Today, Gulf News and 7DAYS at one time or another speak for themselves and there's no telling how many local journos found the seeds of inspiration here just waiting for the right time to plant.

I firmly believe that this blog has wielded huge influence as the key domino in a stack of media dominoes. Without the blogosphere (SDD in particular), without 7DAYS (when it had cojones), without some of the ITP publications (I miss you Campaign) we wouldn't ever have had half as much media coverage or public discourse on issues such as labourer's rights, for example. Or seen the gradually toughening sentences for stuff like rape.

`of course I don't hold SDD directly responsible for any of this. But sometimes a butterfly flaps its wings and before you know it even the tweedy rags such as Gulf News or even pubications owned by Motivate are compeled to spin something half decent up so as not to appear conspicuously and vacuously inept by the looming presence of their own silence on certain matters. Such as property scams.

For awhile it really looked like progress and frank public dialogue about real issues might be possible. But somewhere the tide turned. 7DAYS is now a shade of its former self - an emasculated, toothless "Letters to the Editor" newspaper at best (with even Emirates Today fading away out of sheer redundence). Campaign is of course gone for its own reasons, leaving us the obsequiously sterile Communicate. No Free Zones now, and to tighten the noose further we have shamelessly slanted rags like The National popping up which is so full of craptitude that it has the unpleasant side effect of making the Gulf News look progressive, objective and rational by comparison.

And thus, in a very short time, a fait accomli against intelligent media. Gone even quicker than it arrived.

So as the thinking minds retreat to exile in the far corners of cyberspace like so many scattering Jedi, and the blinkers and old rose shades of the Empire regain and consilidate their temporarily shaken preeminence once more, I offer you thanks, SD, for being one of the pioneers.

Sure it's only a dumb blog, but I know others felt it too.

21 April, 2008 00:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to mr. who is above.

lord, have mercy. purveyor of all, owner of all intellect, and controller of web, show mercy on lesser beings like us. judge of dumbness, punisher of stupid, and king of confusion, arise.

make up your mind you stupid as..ole. where do u want to be? here, or there? or are you schizo enough to think you represent all poers on all sides.
who made you think you are the smartest around to be able to think and judge for the rest? leave us to our puerile rubbish, lord. mercy.

21 April, 2008 12:42  
Blogger Terrified of Nothing said...

Er, I think "who is" is just the guy who installed the content filter, at least.. that's my interpretation of his post. "I pulled the trigger, but it was direct order from above. I even lied a bit trying to save you. I will miss you, I'm only doing my job." type of message.

He figures his bosses will never see it, because it's blocked! Haha...

Maybe I'm off base, though. My bet is the guy who decided that this had to be done, probably doesn't write so eloquently in English. Just a hunch ;).

21 April, 2008 14:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I left the UAE.
I just miss Mall of the Emirates. Alot.
Carrefour and its fresh cheap fruit.
The disco-night dress sense of the European ladies on a Saturday afternoon.
Sunburnt, overweight, booze-busted Middleaged British chavs enjoying their one week package vacation deal.
Marble Slab Ice Cream...miss you...
Whores out for fresh air
Beautifully clean washrooms care of 48-year old Sri Lankan women paid $130 a month (plus accommodation) to spend 12 hours a day hidden in toilets stalls, cleaning bowls.
Even Ski Dubai....though I only watched the good times from the outside. While enjoying my Marble Slab.
Bentleys double parked in the handicapped zone

But most of all I miss..
10 dirham car washes.

Goodbye MOE.

22 April, 2008 06:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and i miss not missing dubai...the place that taught me that chasing money is not everything in life, not that you save anything in dubai anyways. a total waste of time, and life, in my case. and frustration, at the racial profiling, everyday traffic jams, long work hours, daily increasing rentals, and sad looking people everywhere around. and plastic trees uprooted and replanted every few days. have not seen artificial birds yet though

22 April, 2008 15:44  
Blogger who is said...

Blame not they who place the cannons, nor they who light the fuse - blame those who wanted the cannons on the battlefield ;)

22 April, 2008 16:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SD, I found your site when I first moved here to Dubai and I still love it. Please press on with your musings. If the majority in the UAE can't read it, there are still hundreds of millions of internet users who can. Maybe you can headline your blog that it is blocked in the UAE. That would certainly give what you write more value to those who have never been here and are considering a holiday in the dusty paradise. Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and you will continue to grow your reader base.

23 April, 2008 01:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I find particularly ironic is not that the UAE web filter can be easily bypassed, but that blocking this blog in the UAE does nothing to protect the reputation of Dubai or the UAE since everyone else in the world can read it. Duh! People who live here can see the writing on the wall for themselves.

24 April, 2008 13:36  
Blogger secretdubai said...

What I find even more ironic (and very amusing) is the huge amount of people that have subscribed to the Feedblitz email feed since the ban, and those that subscribe to the secret newsletter, from various government agencies and departments and government-owned companies.

Thanks to all you guys for your interest - and please know that I will never reveal your identities or anyone else's.

24 April, 2008 14:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Secretdubai you are the best .
All these years for having lived with no rigths to speak up .You came along and you said everything what i felt inside.I felt i wasted my youth and dignity for all these years in Dubai.Like my friend said ,not everything in life is money .

You doing a great job,keep it up.

I love your blog.

27 April, 2008 13:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think UAE needs less people like you (hateful & denying of bless u r in). You should do better things to UAE than this such as helping the police in fighting all the not-good things from drugs to prostitution.

27 May, 2008 07:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And don't forget, ex-Emirates Today and Gulf News staff regurgitating their old stories and giving it an Abu Dhabi twist. Great journalism, these.

15 June, 2008 03:21  

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