06 February, 2007

Pictures, but no names?

I don't get it. Why do news stories go like this:
Police arrested B.N and S.W., at the airport.

During the investigation, the two suspects said the passports were provided by a Sharjah-based man. A team from Abu Dhabi and Sharjah police departments launched another investigation, which led to the arrest of three more gang members in Sharjah. They were identified as S.M., A.N. and H.K.

They told the police the passports were forged by A.K., who lived in Ajman

And then give you a picture of the suspects -- in irons.

We're given initials, not names, but then we're given a picture. So it's not a question of protecting the identity of the arrested is it?

Here's the whole story including the picture.

There's a better example here (The Blind Boys of Jumeirah). In one story the names were given, and then in a later story only initials were used.


secretdubai said...

It's a weird culturo-legal thing that probably predates the current prevalence of photos in newspapers.

The great irony, of course, is that revealing suspects names hardly identifies them, given there must be several thousand "Ahmed Mohammeds" in Dubai alone. In the same way there have been several stories of people being denied entry to the UAE or being arrested just because they had the same name as the actual suspect/miscreant and the authorities got confused.

Admittedly the UK has its fair share of John Smiths, but there does seem to be less diversity in men's names here. Particularly when variants that we perceive in English - Mohammed/Mohammad/Muhammad/Mohamed - are not actually reflected in Arabic databases.

The best thing is that I doubt they would ever be able to trace me for anything by name, since they spell it wrongly all the time in Arabic and in English, both my surname and my first name. They really don't seem to care about respecting the fact that it's "secret dubai" on my passport, not "seekret dubay" or "secrete dubayy".

Good luck Interpol is all I can say.

Anonymous said...

Not long after I got here, I was told that the police arrested a co-worker because he had the same name as someone that they were after - apparently they arrested everyone in the area that had that name until they figured out which one was the one that they wanted. It apparently worked, as he was released that afternoon. I think that the really strange thing to me was that no one seemed to think that this was an unusually way to approach the matter.

John B. Chilton said...

Y'all are probably on to something regarding the "John Smith" example. If lots of people have the same name publishing the name could lead to a defamation suit - at least in some parts of the world. Perhaps that's the reason the Mexican thieves in Dubai were named. Their names are rare here.

And perhaps that's why photos are permited. No confusion there, not withstanding the "all look alike" problem.

Anonymous said...

Secret - arabic is a phonetic language, so there are different ways to spell the same word (in arabic) and they are all correct.

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