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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

However, Rani Raad, head of CNN‘s commercial arm in the region launch, insists that the network will not accept any form of censorship:

“In our time in Dubai for the past seven years, we have never been censored and have been reporting our news freely. And should we feel that there’s censorship in Abu Dhabi, we’ll simply pack up and leave. It’s very simple. CNN‘s editorial credibility will not come under question and will not be compromised.”

“We’re unwavering on that point,” he added.

That’s what they all say; however, unlike local publishing houses, CNN doesn’t rely purely on local advertising to keep its business going. And while it’s invested heavily in its Abu Dhabi hub (Raad wouldn’t disclose how much), closing down its new office due to editorial restrictions wouldn’t shut the network down worldwide.

In short, local publishing houses have more to lose, but that’s nothing new.

What I’m curious to see is whether CNN will tackle stories many consider off-limits, like hotels that sell alcohol illegally in Abu Dhabi, or the shocking number of unreported honor crimes throughout the UAE. Or even the shaddy dealings of a construction company owned by a royal.

If they can report such stories without getting banned or censored, then that journalist from Gulf News was right to ask about job openings.

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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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