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Step off my editorial integrity

Step off my editorial integrity

When CNN launched its new hub in Abu Dhabi, journalists questioned whether the network would bow to the UAE’s censorship laws.

November 8, 2009 3:19 by

So when journalists gathered at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi for the launch of CNN‘s new hub in the UAE capital, I wasn’t surprised when a Gulf News journalist asked the panel the following questions: “Is CNN still hiring for its Abu Dhabi office? And if so, what are qualifications do applicants need to get in?”

“Why, are you looking for a job?” asked CNN International EVP Tony Maddox.

She said no. I didn’t believe her, but that doesn’t matter.

At the launch, CNN executives stressed that their reports would not be censored, which is puzzling given the country’s media law. Until the much-dispute draft media law – which the government published in January 2009 – is passed (who knows when that will be), journalists are bound by a law passed in the 1980s.

One of the restrictions journalists face is reporting on the nation’s royal families. Therefore, given that numerous members of the UAE’s royal families own businesses, not all business stories are fair game.

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  1. Courtney on November 9, 2009 5:35 pm

    Indeed being a journalist in the UAE poses a challenge to so-called Western standards of journalism like balance, investigation and coverage of key issues of public concern. A recent and personal experience with censorship and retaliation occurred last month when the report about pilot fatigue on Emirates Airlines was released. I worked for a major regional news network’s website and published this story because it was such an important public safety concern. But since the airline’s president is a Maktoum and also head of the regulatory agency as well as one of the outlet’s biggest advertisers. I initially refused to remove the story until several hours after publishing my colleague advised me that I could be arrested or fined several thousand dollars so I should remove it. Since the news organization refused to stand up for freedom of he ress, especially the head of websites, so I eventually did after hours of fighting to keep it on the site. The next day I lost my job and was thus forced to leave the UAE because I no longer had a visa sponsor. Somehow I doubt this would have happened with my previous employer the New York Times or other reputable Western news outlets like CNN because they have a longer and more ingrained than in the Arab world, and the main financial interests lay outside the region so there’s also less of a financial impetus for censorship as well.

  2. anon on November 10, 2009 10:30 am

    CNN certainly doesn’t abide by the uae’s media regulations. I saw a show hosted out of Abu Dhabi refer to “Jerusalem, Israel”. I wonder if they’d be allowed to say Persian Gulf. That’s illegal in the uae, i hear

  3. AT on November 11, 2009 3:24 am

    I have never read such a badly-written article before!

  4. Miss Anne Thropic on November 11, 2009 10:14 am

    AT, it’s an excellent article that raises plenty of questions that need to be addressed if the media here is ever to be taken seriously. And lose the redundant hyphen before criticising the writing of others…

  5. Sultan on November 13, 2009 4:23 pm

    Courtney, your article had negatively affect Emirates’ reputation, and thats a big No-No….

    You should have written something positive instead of reporting on stuff that doesnt help anyone

  6. Miss Anne Thropic on November 15, 2009 8:40 am

    Sultan, how is reporting on an air safety issue unhelpful? As someone who travels a lot, quite often on Emirates, I’d like to know that I’m going to get to my destination and home again safely.


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