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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



There’s a deal you make when you become a journalist in the UAE: in exchange for a reasonable salary and a good position, you keep your nose out of meaty stories. If you don’t like it, you can leave.

Most people don’t like it. Which is why, during the Spring and Summer of 2005 when Arab Media Group was hiring journalists for its ‘revolutionary’ newspaper Emirates Today, battalions of journalists applied. I’d know; I was one of them.

The newspaper, which closed in December 2007, was supposed to challenge the government with hard hitting stories and investigations. It didn’t, and subsequently it lost tens of capable journalists to publishing houses that don’t pretend to push the boundaries. The paper shifted its name to Emirates Business 24/7, and has since been the butt of Kipp’s jokes for its positive approach on everything. Every. Thing.

Journalists who believed Emirates Today would crack the country’s censorship code were genuinely disappointed. Many expected to enjoy the level of journalistic freedom they’d experienced in the United Kingdom and the United States.

But anyone who knows anything about the region would guess that so long as you work with a local outfit, you’ll never have the kind of freedom in the UAE as you would in the West. It simply isn’t in the fabric of the region to accept the sort of criticism seen in foreign newspapers.



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6 Comments

  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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