Thursday, 21 May 2009

Independent Article Blocked by Du?

This screengrab by pal Catalin (who normally captures images of a much more artistic nature) shows what the UAE's Twitterers have been confirming today - that UAE telco Du does, indeed, appear to have instituted a block of Johann Hari's skewed Dubai-bashing article in The Independent.

Hari's piece, considered by a great number of the people that live and work here as unbalanced and even egregious, was hilariously taken off by blogger and Sun person Chris Saul.

It angered many people, certainly had an impact and was arguably the zenith of the Dubai bashing pieces that have broken out in international media over the past few months like a rash of irritating little surface lesions. Many of these pieces were awful examples of 'Drive-by journalism', but Hari's certainly appeared to have been well researched, even if many of us disagreed with its hysterically outraged tone, wilful lack of balance and insistence on portraying Dubai in the worst possible light.

But we all had views on it, expressed widely and with vim and wit. The vast majority of people I know who live and work here disagreed with Hari's piece and did so from a standpoint of great experience of Dubai and the wider Middle East - the context in which Dubai demands to be placed by anyone genuinely wishing to provide service to their readers.

We were able to have that discussion because we could see what we were discussing. Chris was able to lampoon it so brilliantly because he had the chance to read what he was lampooning. Public voice provided a balance to Hari's article and also provided many of the balancing comments that disagreed with it on The Independent's website. Because we could see the piece, make our minds up and provide our counterpoint to Hari's rant.

Now Du has apparently blocked the article (see the grab above), at least in part (some Du users say they can still access it, although the majority appear not to be able to). If so, we can only urge the telco to reconsider this unilateral decision (Etisalat customers can still access it, so presumably this means the block is not a TRA decision) and reverse it.

I can only assume that it was a decision taken in error by some jobsworth and does not truly reflect a policy of blocking all material that reflects an opinion or tone that does not meet some hidden 'standard' of what's acceptable. Or that it is a technical 'glitch' that can be remedied.

But if it is a block based on the content of the piece, that's really bad news. It would deny people the right to an opinion. It would deny the practice of journalism. And it would have the potential to create yet more negative sentiment on Dubai - negative sentiment that I, for one, really and truly do not want to see being so needlessly created.

Anyone from Du able to confirm that this is not a block by policy?


The National's Tom Gara reports, via Twitter, that the du block is to be removed and seems possibly to have been the subject of a little confusion between du and the TRA.

Good news, then, at the end of the day.


Dave said...

This an extremely disappointing move by Du and reflects a greater form of censorship.

I was under the impression (obviously in error) that websites were only blocked if they offended the moral, ethical and social values of the country. In what way did this occur with this article? Is the censorship now based on personal opinion of someone in Du Management?

In addition, blocking it to stop people in the UAE seeing it..... what is the point???? We are already here so we now the truth about the place!!!! But the bigger concern is the increased form of censorship being portrayed by Du.

Dubai Jazz said...

Blocking these kinds of articles denies us -- the best people suited to respond to them -- the chance to do so.

Dubai Jazz said...

The most disturbing thing about this censorship is that, by contrast, it shows Etisalat as the open-minded, liberal and free Internet provider (something they’re obviously NOT).

sabaza said...

I hate to be the one saying a positive thing or defending du, but I'm sitting in a du operated zone and the article works...

who is said...

OK, assuming that this isn't a TRA thing (the only officially "certified" destroyers of internet content), I hereby throw my hands up in the air - du is officially e-boneheaded and out of sync with what's actually going on in society (the same topic has been openly addressed in the state media).

Is this perhaps part of a cunning strategy to compete with Etisalat not only in terms of product but in how-to-create-a bad public-image as well?

Good catch; new Blog dedicated to chronicling du FAIL going online in 5...4...3...

Keefieboy said...


Seabee said...

I thought the same as Who Is - that only the TRA could block sites. Very odd if an ISP is doing it.

For some time I've been contradicting commenters who claim that negative comments in overseas media are blocked, because I haven't come across it before. I have several links to them in my postings and they all work. Let's hope this is just an abberation.

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