23 February, 2007

Hosni no Likey Free Speechy

"Dictator? Hell, no. He's just like me, a decider, makin' decisions for his people..."

GULF NEWS reported yesterday that an Egyptian Blogger was tossed in jail for calling Hosni Mubarak a "dictator."

Personally, if it were me I would have removed the "tator" syllable -- but then again -- I'm not particularly known for my social graces...


I Have a Dream said...

loool.. u can't have 2 buddy.. well..

goldenlegs said...

you even managed the local papers here with this one, lol added this article to my blog, loved it :-)

all people that want a linkback to their appropriate site, don't hesitate to contact the (goldenlegs) of the goldsouq

BuJ said...

hmmm sad news.. especially since our legal system (along with many things) in the UAE is based on the Egyptian legal codes.

Egypt has a lot to offer, and yet it's from the UAE and the rest of the world that we report the shameful act of jailing someone for his opinions.

Ironic given that Egypt, the budding democracy that it is has such a high turnout for elections and the current president has won with a landslide 98.2% (or close) of the votes!

Show some respect!

Anonymous said...

Let's no forget that calling Hosni Mubarek dictator on a blog in the UAE is against the law in the UAE.

i, Bobo said...

Specifically what UAE law has been violated? And please, not some vague allusion to the law or some stupid rant about the horrible way the west views or has wrongfully portrayed the President of Egypt -- exactly what civil or criminal code in UAE law (please cite volume, law & page number) prohibits discussing a newspaper article about Hosni M-u-b-a-r-a-k?

BuJ said...

nah, the anon is right.
it's against the law to insult a president of a "friendly" country. i dunno if the word dictator is an insult or just fact, but why play with fire?

i, Bobo said...

Once again I ask -- what law? We still have yet to see anyone cite a specific law.

Also, how exactly does this alleged law determine who's "friendly" and who's "unfriendly?" Is there some sort of annex to this law that's issued each year on the basis of a "friendliness index?"

The Cynic said...

The UAE Federal Law 15 of 1980, The Printing and Publishing Law, bobo. It is against the law to insult the leader of a Muslim nation or a friendly country.

From the US State Department: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61701.htm

"The UAE Print and Publication Law prohibits, under penalty of imprisonment, criticism of the government, ruling families, and friendly governments."

Are you making a concrete claim to the contrary? If so, please document it.

i, Bobo said...

I stand corrected -- you are absolutely right and you have, in fact, identified the law that prohibits criticism of a friendly government -- in other words it actually could be considered a violation of said law for someone to call Hosni Mubarak "a dictator."

I, of course, did not actually call Hosni Mubarak "a dictator" because if I had called Hosni Mubarak "a dictator" you would have read the statement "Hosni Mubarak is a dictator" in my post about Hosni Mubarak throwing a blogger into jail for saying "Hosni Mubarak is a dictator." But you didn't read that because I didn't actually call Hosni Mubarak "a dictator."

But thanks for setting me straight on the "UAE Print and Publication Law," especially sourcing the US State Department Website, which is one of the two places where you can find a listing (the other being the bastion of legal dogma known as yourlyricsearch.com). And I just want to state unequivocally that you were right and I was wrong, and in that spirit I think we should probably post the entire section on "Freedom of Speech and Press" in the UAE so other bloggers don't inadvertently get thrown into jail like that Egyptian guy who wrote "Hosni Mubarak is a dictator" on his website:

"Article 30 of the constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the government restricted these rights in practice. The UAE Print and Publication Law prohibits, under penalty of imprisonment, criticism of the government, ruling families, and friendly governments, as well as other statements that threaten social stability; however, the law was rarely enforced because journalists practiced self-censorship. The government tries complaints against journalists under the Penal Code.

Two of the country's newspapers, al-Ittihad and al-Bayan, were government-owned. The country's largest Arabic language newspaper, al-Khaleej, was privately owned but received government subsidies. The country's largest English language newspaper, Gulf News, was also privately owned. Newspapers often relied on news agencies for material. The government-owned Emirates News Agency regularly provided material printed verbatim from many newspapers and from government officials.

By law, the Ministry of Information licenses all publications. The ministry is informed of the appointment of editors and is responsible for issuing editors their press credentials. The Press and Publications Law governs press content and contains a list of proscribed subjects. Government officials reportedly warned journalists when they published material deemed politically or culturally sensitive. According to Ministry of Information and Dubai Police officials, journalists were not given specific publishing instructions. Self-censorship was the practice, with the ministry relying on editors' and journalists' discretion to publish or refrain from publishing material which could cause them problems.

A 2002 de facto ban prohibiting 10 prominent intellectuals from publishing opinion pieces in the country's Arabic and English language media continued. The ban was lifted in 2004 for at least two of the individuals, and they have since returned to writing and teaching. There was one new report of an academic that was banned from teaching in the university, although no reason was initially given and no further details were available.

While self-censorship affected what was reported locally, foreign journalists and news organizations operating out of the Dubai Media Free Zone reported no restrictions on the content of print and broadcast material produced for use outside the country. Broadcast content within the Dubai Media Free Zone is regulated by the Free Zone Authority for Technology and Media. There were reports that some broadcast channels in the Media Free Zone broadcast songs and cellular short message service (SMS) messages described as "indecent" by government officials, which were accessed by the local audience. In response, on April 16, Dubai Police and the Juvenile Welfare Association launched a five-year campaign to spread the message that indecent content would not be tolerated within the Media Free Zone.

Except for those located in Dubai's Media Free Zone, most television and radio stations were government-owned and conformed to unpublished government reporting guidelines. Satellite receiving dishes were widespread and provided access to international broadcasts without apparent censorship. The main pan-Arab dailies were not censored and were distributed on the day of publication. Censors at the Ministry of Information and Culture reviewed all imported media and banned or censored before distribution material considered pornographic, excessively violent, derogatory to Islam, supportive of certain Israeli government positions, unduly critical of friendly countries, or critical of the government or ruling families.

On June 15, Basma al-Jandaly, a local newspaper reporter, was arrested at the Dubai airport because of an article she had written in February about a man who had stalked and slashed women with a knife in Sharjah Emirate. The warrant issued by Sharjah police contended that her article in Dubai's leading English daily, Gulf News, may have helped the attacker escape by alerting him to the investigation. The interior minister immediately intervened on the reporter's behalf and ordered her released the following day. The minister also issued a subsequent directive that all police departments must establish standard operating procedures for dealing with complaints against the press that will allow journalists to do their jobs without undo interference.

On July 26, two journalists were found guilty of defamation and libel for publishing opinion pieces in al-Ittihad newspaper in 2003, and were each fined $5,465 (20,000 dirhams). According to press reports, one of the journalists criticized a decision by the Ministry of Education to alter approved curriculums and cancel some subjects at several private schools midway through the academic year, while the other journalist was tried as an accomplice because he was the managing editor.

Internet access was provided through the state‑owned monopoly Etisalat. A proxy server, intended to block material regarded as pornographic, violent, morally offensive, or anti-governmental, as well as sites promoting radical Islamic ideologies, in practice blocked broad categories of sites including many that did not meet the intended criteria, including www.newyorktimes.com and www.cnn.com. The Etisalat proxy server provided access to America OnLine email but blocked other features that enable users to chat online. Etisalat denied having the authority to block any site, and referred all complaints and suggestions to the Ministry of Information. Etisalat occasionally solicited suggestions from users regarding "objectionable" sites, and at times the government responded by blocking some politically oriented sites, which were sometimes later unblocked. Etisalat also blocked commercial "voice‑chat" and Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) Web sites on the Internet. The proxy server did not affect Internet access in Dubai's Internet City and Media City.

Academic materials destined for schools were routinely censored. Students were banned from reading texts featuring sexuality or pictures of the human body.

Thanks again for straightening me out on this whole thing.

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