Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Media Police

Gulf News (880g) today contains more commentary on the new draft media law of the UAE. In response to a petition from over 100 UAE academics, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and members of non-governmental organisations, the national media council's director general, Ebrahim Al Abed has asserted that the law is a good thing.

Interestingly, the piece (which is significantly cut in the online edition, for some reason. You'll just have to shell out Dhs3 for the full skinny) adds some new fact. The National Media Council will be charged with ascertaining whether a breach of the law has taken place and forwarding the case to the courts which, if I understand his words correctly, effectively makes the NMC The Media Police.

Do you think they'll get smart new uniforms with shiny peaked caps and mirror shades?

"The National Media Council will have the responsibiliy of determining whether a possible breach of the law has occured - but it will then be for the courts to determine whether the law has actually been broken and to decide upon the penalty, if any" Al Abed told GN.

Meanwhile, another worrying development comes from the UAE Journalists' Association, which is holding a two-day conference at Dubai's Al Bustan Rotana today and tomorrow according to GN. The conference will discuss many weighty matters related to journalism and ethics, including the role of online media. In fact, talking to Gulf News, the Association's head said that:

"...trends and challenges to the media will also be discussed, such as the role of citizen journalism and bloggers. He said it was difficult to accept bloggers as journalists because they did not fall under a framework of accountability and ethics that govern responsible reporting."

Which is all very well, if 'citizen journalists' (hate that phrase) and bloggers are involved in the discussion. I certainly didn't get an invite... anyone else out there get one?

And do you WANT to be seen as journalists? Either professionally or in the eyes of the law? I know that I, for one, sure as hell don't...


Seabee said...

I'm with you Alex, if I wanted to be known as a journalist I'd have trained to be one and be working as one. Nor am I a 'citizen journalist' and I don't want to be accepted as a journalist as Mr Al Abed seems to think.

I'm a private individual expressing my views on things. I used to do that by writing to the media and talking to people. The only thing that's changed is that I now have a wider platform thanks to the advent of blogging.

I'm not alone in not needing to 'fall under a framework of accountability and ethics that govern responsible reporting' because I act responsibly. I stay within the law on things like libel, I stay within the local laws in regards to personal insults, if I state a fact I do my utmost to check it first. Very many bloggers do the same.

Eventually I'm sure there will be international laws covering the internet, including blogging. The problem here seems to be that the internet not only isn't understood but it's actually feared by many people in responsible positions.

The Spear said...

It doesn't really matter if I'm a journalist. What happens now is that my opinion on something can be deemed criminal.

Why do the UAE need such a law?

That is just stupid. Khallas.

What will they police next? Coffee shops and street corners for what is being said?

The internet is a public domain, just like the street corner.

samuraisam said...

the spear: because its just an update of the law; the old law has such hilarities as banning people under 16 from visiting the cinema (if only that were enforced.)

I'd honestly be surprised if they actually implement this law (which AFAIK they haven't done so yet) within another 1-2 years. It took about 12 light years for them to come up with it, so it's probably being held back for other reasons.

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