Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Media freedom and standards hit the wall

There's an outspoken column in Gulf News today about the state of the media in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi Editor Abdullah Rasheed doesn't mince his words, giving a real serve to a whole range of people and organisations.

It's quite a piece.

The heading is "The ceiling of press freedom in UAE is falling"

The thrust of the column is that "Press freedom is deteriorating and freedom of expression is in increasing danger" and he points the finger at those he believes responsible.

He includes the Federal National Council, the National Media Council, which he says are both guilty of not protecting journalists, laws and government/official bodies are criticised, he's particularly harsh on media owners and managers, and he says that journalists are not doing their job.

Here's a flavour of what he says:

"At long last, the Federal National Council (FNC) will finally hold a session [today] to discuss the media, having postponed four consecutive sessions for no apparent reason.

It is no secret that one of the main obstacles facing the media and journalists is the total inability of the FNC to protect journalists from the mistreatment they face.

Our newspapers are hardly given the freedom to tackle most issues and bring to light social, political, economic and even sports stories.

There isn't enough protection provided to journalists and self-censorship is practised by our newspapers to avoid angering official bodies and to please the government.

Adding to their woes, journalists battle to get even the simplest information due to the non-co-operation of most official bodies which is another issue that the NMC did nothing about. On this issue, the NMC has taken the side of the government bodies, as if it is totally unconcerned with media affairs.

No official is ready to respond to a journalist, and no spokesperson provides information for any ministry or government body. The title of official spokesperson means nothing, because the spokesperson thinks he is a high-ranking official and that journalists are inferior to him, and accordingly declines to co-operate with them."

Newspapers aren't spared, from top to bottom:

"Journalists are no longer doing their duty, meaning that the press is no longer monitoring the performance of government.

Some newspapers even indulge in hypocrisy to please officials and the bodies they represent, and there is also full subordination to advertisers.

Mismanagement and confusion abound in most media outlets, as a result of the lack of experience of the people running them, from editors to editors-in-chief.

Some newspapers are run by people who care only about their own interests, at the expense of the public interest."

He talks about the pointlessness of it, given our access to the internet and all the news that it contains. And how in view of that we need a strong independent media here to discuss the issues facing the country. He also complains about the decreasing number of Emirati journalists.

It's by far the strongest piece I've seen on the standard of journalism, the incompetence of media companies, the lack of transparency from government, the lack of media freedom.

I'd be interested to know if anything similar is appearing in the Arabic media.

Read the full column here.


Anonymous said...

A polished article, rehearsed by all parties named/involved, and then published.

Purpose: To appease the general population and the world watching from the sidelines.

Here's a revelation in case the UAE Government didn't know this. Press freedom in addition to many things, is also a criticized party's ability to take criticism at its truest-face value and then apply corrective measures for the greater good.

Outpoint, I dare the Government here to lift the ban on Secret Dubai and Ben Kerishan.

Anonymous said...

wow.. that got published, didn't it?

Seabee said...

Anon@6.28: "A polished article, rehearsed by all parties named/involved, and then published"

You're telling us that the writer sat down with the other parties, told them he was going to accuse them of incompetence, unprofessionalism, dereliction of duty, mismanagement, cronyism...and they approved it.

Not a likely scenario is it.

Anonymous said...


You believe what you want.

I'll believe what I know.

Seabee said...

Anon@1.56 "I'll believe what I know"

So you were obviously in the meetings, to be so adamant in saying 'I know'.

That being the case, tell us the full story. I'm always eager to hear the true facts so I can't wait to hear and I'm sure other readers are the same.

alexander... said...

Wow. Snap again.

Even got the same anonytroll.

Seabee said...

Alex the same stories do seem to catch our interest from time to time.

(Yes, I see anonnynony put you right too.)

Anonymous said...

I see Voltaire here. The last I recall, he had his butt kicked over at Aqoul; http://www.aqoul.com/archives/2008/03/blocked_again_a.php


Please don't be coy!

Now, I understand from your profile that you're a long time resident in this country and I respect the fact that you feel you owe some loyalty to it by jumping to its defense every now and then. But, please don't tell me that you believe & buy everything that gets published with a cosmetic touch whereby the objective of it being nothing but (temporary) appeasement, both locally & internationally. As for me, I don't give a two-bit about the censorship in this country, as I have my own (mainstream & underground) sources for facts. I wish I could say the same about the masses here, your good self & Voltaire included!

Most importantly, I'm neither a troll nor am I here to criticize you or for that matter start a (blog) fight with you. I'm just stating my opinion, as a believer of free speech, which you may (simply) choose to ignore or accept instead of blatantly labeling me a troll or questioning the authenticity of my earlier (6:28) comment. Thank you.

Seabee said...

Anon@10.01 you are very confused, so let me clarify.

I did not call you a troll, I did not accuse you of criticising (not that that's a problem anyway), I am not accusing you of starting a fight, I did not question the authenticity of your first comment.

My response was simply that I thought your scenario was unlikely.

You told us that you 'know' what happened.

I'll repeat my response to that:

"So you were obviously in the meetings, to be so adamant in saying 'I know'.

That being the case, tell us the full story. I'm always eager to hear the true facts so I can't wait to hear and I'm sure other readers are the same."

You've now told us that you have you 'own (mainstream & underground) sources for facts.'

You also said that 'the masses', me included, don't have the access to the facts that you have. So I repeat - I'm always eager to hear the true facts so I can't wait to hear the full, true story from you.

Instead of vague 'I know what you don't know' and 'I have sources', which anyone can claim, share your information with us...in the interests of free speech, the sharing of information, the sharing of the truth and knowledge.

Anonymous said...


I like your 'reverse psychology' tact. And the fact that your trying to corner me into disclosing more by using this 'free speech' gimmick. So, in light of my refusal to disclose my sources, you may feel free to judge me as a weirdo, vague and anything else that makes you feel like you've won this round. Cherish it!

I'm done here.

Seabee said...

Anon@9.37, hiding behind 'protecting my sources' was entirely predictable, and nonsense of course.

I'm not using 'reverse psychology' or trying to 'corner you'.

It's all very simple. You stated clearly and firmly that you know for a fact that the article I quoted was carefully 'rehearsed and polished by all named/involved'

I didn't ask you to reveal your sources, simply to give us the benefit of your claimed knowledge and the facts to substantiate your claim.

You see, one of the major problems in the world is people misleading others by disseminating misinformation. By stating opinion as fact and when challenged claiming that it is a fact...but with no evidence to support that claim. Yours is an example.

You're telling people that articles such as this by Abdullah Rasheed cannot be published in the UAE unless all parties, including those heavily criticised, approve it. You say you know this for a fact.

I don't believe it.

Why? Because it's beyond the realms of possibility that 'all named/involved', which is the members of the FNC, the NMC, lawmakers, official bodies, government officials, media owners & managers and journalists, all got together to vet a proposed article, then approved it for publication even though it contained severe criticism of them all.

Demensha said...

Seabee please climb off your soapbox and amble back to your bed in the care home

Seabee said...

Demensha, I was having a discussion with someone else. If you have anything sensible to say you're welcome to join in. Childish comments don't qualify though, so I guess we'll have to wait a few years until you grow up.

Oh, and as you obviously don't understand the blogosphere, the way blogs work is that the owners can, and do, say what they want to say.

Anonymous said...


This is becoming a pointless discussion.

I guess, time alone will tell whether I was wrong or you were right.

Since I'm a guest here at your blog, I'll let you have the last word and hope for your sake, things turn out the way you envision.

Anonymous 9:37

Seabee said...

Anon@6.12, I agree we're not going to agree, but I always enjoy a discussion - as long as, like this one, it's adult, sensible and polite.