Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The New UAE Media Law is .Not. Law

Newsprint fabricImage by Amy.Ng via Flickr

The New UAE Media Law has been passed by the Federal National Council, according to the Emirates news agency WAM.

The WAM story, filed just now, says that some 60% of the law has been modified, but doesn't say how the law has been modified or indeed whether the controversial 'harm to the economy' clause has been softened or clarified - or whether the 60% modifications were to the version of the law that's being debated or whether they were the original revisions that took place in the two years the law was, to use Gulf News subs' favourite phrase, 'on the anvil'.

We'll doubtless see more on this tomorrow. The law itself has provoked widespread media concern - and it does not, as far as I am aware or can find out, recognise the 'e-world' (for instance bloggers, forum commentators or, say, Twitterers) in any way. So whether you can go to jail for blogging or Tweeting something because you're not a journalist and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law (that protection including huge fines) or not is still totally up in the air. Let alone where a journalist that blogs something stands.

Up until now, the party line has been that regulations will 'clarify' the law. But we haven't yet seen how clear the law, in its final form, truly is. Let's hope that one of tomorrow's papers gets to publish the full draft as approved by the FNC so we can see how the world has moved on since the UAE Journalists' Association published its voluntary Code of Ethics in October 2007...

** As has been noted on this blog before, 'post in haste, repent at leisure'.

Indeed, the new 'law' news from WAM is, as the (sadly) anonymous commenter on this post quite rightly pointed out, not really news. The President has not, as far as we know, signed it off. And so it's not a law. It's just the same old document (unseen) that we've all been waiting for along with some more comments on how it's going to be a wonderful law that we're all going to really enjoy living with. I'm going to hold on getting a red face over this until we see tomorrow's coverage from UAE media. This'll be interesting...


Anonymous said...

It was passed by the FNC in Jan so nothing new has really happened, its still with the president awaiting approval. Not law. The Wam story is just "explaining the Council's position on the Human Rights Watch report on the Media Law." As I understand it 60 percent of the original draft submitted by the NMC was changed by the FNC, the draft the media has reported on is after those changes. Imagine what it was like before...

Seabee said...

Yes, it's another one of the never-properly-explained things we struggle with all the time.

I think the biggest problem with the draft law, apart from draconian fines, is the vagueness of things such as 'harming the economy' which leave far too much to individual interpretation. Does reporting a 50% drop in real estate values, when real estate is such an important part of the economy, constitute harming the economy?

Some would say it's simply reporting the facts while others might well say that stating the fact damages confidence and therefore is harming the economy. If the judge is in the second camp you're in big trouble.

The National today reports that Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, FNC Speaker, has said that 26 of the 45 articles had been changed from the original draft. No detail though.

It has to be approved by the Supreme Council to become law of course.

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