Journalism, media laws and press freedom in the UAE

The following links and explanations should help provide an understanding of the state of journalism, media laws and press freedoms in the UAE:

  • My Gulf News article “Revised media law for the UAE” outlines a suggestion for a new media law in the UAE. Essentially, I propose starting with the Abu Dhabi Media Zone’s content guidelines which starts with an understanding of the unique cultural situation in the Emirates.
  • I’ve written three articles for Dubai’s Gulf News about impediments to a free press in the United Arab Emirates: Challenges facing press freedom, Civil courts should handle defamation, and UAE journalists need more legal protections.
  • At Mideast Posts, you can read my observations about the local press and its coverage of sensitive topics: UAE newspapers and the self-censorship debate (concerning self-censorship at The National), Peninsula journalism attack resonates regionallyNewspapers inconsistent over blogger arrests, and UAE media breaks silence on Emirat’s arrest.
  • My blog post about the CNN interview with HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid that explores his thoughts on freedom of expression in the UAE.
  • I’ve also written many posts about the news coverage and other issues in the UAE. See them all here.
  • Sam Potter’s “A paralysis of analysis.” Features quotes from Ibrahim Al Abed, director general of the National Media Council, the media regulatory agency in the UAE, defending the highly criticized draft press law. Here’s my post about an interview with Abed in the Gulf News.
  • Dana El-Baltaji’s “Emirites Press Law.” Summarizes the draft press law and the concerns of its critics. The country’s ruler never signed the law, so it’s effectively dead. The country still operates under the 1980 Press and Publications Law. The government news agency WAM recently reported that H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s decree that journalists shouldn’t go to jail for doing their job should be considered law.
  • Abdulla Rasheed’s “The ceiling of press freedom is falling.” The Abu Dhabi editor of Gulf News complains about government interference. (Abed cited this column as an indication that a free press exists in the UAE.)
  • The Open Net Initative’s report on Internet filtering in the UAE. Study from 2009 finds “substantial” political filtering and “pervasive” social censorship.
  • Andrew Mill’s “A Vision in the Desert.” Details The National newspaper’s efforts to bring Western-style journalism to the UAE. The founding editor, Martin Newland, left his position as editor of the London Telegraph to take the job but left after about a year. His replacement, Hassan Fattah, was a Mideast reporter for the New York Times before joining The National as a deputy editor. Many observers agree that the paper has become more timid since Newland’s departure for a position with Abu Dhabi Media, the paper’s government-backed owner. Still, I’ve commented frequently on the good journalism at The National and most observers also note the media here have greatly improved over the past five years.
  • My interview with the Doha Center for Media Freedom about the coverage of the “UAE5” trial in the UAE in 2011.

Please send any me any additional links or ask me any questions. Send email to mattjduffy – at – gmail.com. (I occasionally update and re-publish this post.)

By | June 10th, 2012|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Research compares English and Arabic press in Abu Dhabi

Here are my slides from my presentation in Beirut today at the Arab-U.S. Association of Communication Educators. My co-author, Saba ElGhul-Bebawi, and I examined a month’s coverage from Al Ittihad and The National in Abu Dhabi. Here’s the abstract:

This study explores differences in journalistic practice between two newspapers in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The authors compare one month of coverage of The National, an English-language newspaper, and Al Ittihad, an Arabic-language newspaper, to examine how each critically reports the news. This research aims to understand how both newspapers construct news for the audiences they serve and, in turn, understand the extent to which each newspaper affects the formation of media literacy within the United Arab Emirates. Using Kovach and Rosenthiel’s Principles of Journalism as a theoretical foundation, this study uses textual analysis to examine the presentation of photos, placement of articles, and the construction and omission of news. The conclusions provide insight into the differences in journalism practices between the two newspapers.

Several members of the audience, including NPR’s Andy Carvin, live-tweeted the presentation. See a storify version of their comments here.

You can download the presentation here.

By | October 30th, 2011|Uncategorized|1 Comment

(Nearly) All the news that’s fit to print

The National’s coverage of the activists on trial in Abu Dhabi has been reasonably good given the lack of complete press freedom enjoyed in this country. Yesterday’s article contained robust coverage of Sunday’s court appearance. The article included defense criticisms that the accused weren’t given access to prosecution documents and were being held in solitary confinement. However, the article which appeared in print and now appears on the website, differs slightly from the original report.

The third paragraph from the original report (which I copied after it appeared online) is missing:

Some (of the accused) have have been harassed by other prisoners, gotten lice and suffered foot injuries from being kept in chains, according to the lawyers, Abdul Hameed Al Kumaiti and Mohammed Al Rukun.

I have no idea who made the decision to delete this paragraph, but the details certainly seem relevant. Perhaps the editors at the paper don’t want to repeat unproven allegations about mistreatment. But, the lawyers made these allegations in open court at a public hearing, so it seems well within in the boundaries of good journalism to report them.

By | October 4th, 2011|Uncategorized|0 Comments