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Tread at your own peril, Part I

Tread at your own peril, Part I

It may be a minefield out there for investigative journalists, but for all reporters there are plenty of potential pitfalls. Lara Haidar of The Rights Lawyers explains to Communicate magazine the balance between freedom of speech and the law in the UAE. Part I.

September 28, 2009 10:07 by

Several journalistic incidents that have occurred in recent years have left a big question mark over where the line is drawn in relation to freedom of the press in the UAE.

In June 2005, a reporter for a prominent daily English newspaper was on her way to Greece when she was stopped at the airport and informed that there was a warrant for her arrest. The warrant was prompted by an article she had written earlier in February about a man who was reportedly slashing women in the Emirate of Sharjah.

The police said a victim had raised a complaint against the reporter but it soon became clear it was the Sharjah police who were piqued, later contending that her article may have helped the attacker escape by alerting him to their investigation.

Shortly after that incident, a new men’s magazine had its license revoked by Dubai Media City following an issue of the magazine that featured what the authorities deemed a “risqué” centerfold fashion shoot. More recently, two UAE national journalists were each fined the equivalent of $5,500 following charges of libel made against them for criticising a decision made by the Ministry of Education.

Other incidents include a freelance reporter being called in by the Dubai Police to give a statement in relation to criminal charges filed against him for writing an article about a murder and naming the building in which it occurred. The owners of the building sought to take action against the journalist for defaming the building and suggesting that it is “unsafe” to live there, and against the newspaper for publishing a photograph of the building with the article.

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