25 January, 2008

"Picture perfect: How the story of Dubai’s other side can never be told"

An interesting read from Arab Media & Society...

"It’s inevitable, then, that I sometimes forget Emiratis may even read my articles. I resort to using British idioms and words I know they wouldn’t understand, but it isn’t something I’m conscious of; the sad reality is that I’m simply not conscious of them at all. Except, of course, when the government steps in to demand that we remove a chapter or an article from a guide or a magazine.

I am tempted to provide an example of this sort of censorship, but I have been asked not to. While the incident between the government and Time Out is common knowledge amongst journalists in both my company and in other publishing houses, Dubai isn’t ready to admit that it breaches the media’s right to freedom of speech. But I’ll allow myself this: the piece that offended the government was a guide to alcoholic beverages sold legally in Dubai; it is neither news nor a surprise that the emirate has licensed liquor outlets within its borders.

[...]

You can blame it on companies being unaccustomed and overly sensitive to criticism, or you can look at the reality of being an expatriate journalist in Dubai. One of the problems we face is that we rarely hear an Emirati voice. They haven’t had a chance to develop one that foreigners can understand or relate to just yet. They will in time, but until then, the expatriate community will have to continue guessing which subjects we can tackle without having to deal with censorship or corporate bullies.

Such incidents of sporadic censorship have made me, as well as other journalists hesitant to tackle the real stories. As mentioned, it isn’t that the stories aren’t there, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a journalist who’s willing to have their career shredded for a 300-word article.

The result is that Dubai’s stories are rarely told. The truth about the conditions within labor camps throughout the city, where the men who toil for hours in the region’s unforgiving sun live, isn’t exposed. And the women who suffer the injustices of a so-called traditional society, while their men indulge in the freedoms of a modern world, rarely have their say.

But like most journalists, I make mental notes of the laborers forced to defecate on street corners for lack of toilets, and the Emirati woman who calls me once every four or five months to remind me she’s willing to talk, but not today; I hoard these stories, knowing full well that if I pursue them I’ll get barred from the emirate. But I’m waiting for the day I leave and have the freedom to write with the sort of brutal honesty these stories deserve."


read more here (article is 2 seperate pages)

13 comments:

Proud Emirati said...

He was going good but he lost my respect after this sentence "And the women who suffer the injustices of a so-called traditional society"

Proud Emirati said...

Anyway, the reason why Dubai government didn't like the liquor guide is because even though alcohol is allowed anything related to it shouldn't go to the media. It is as if Dubai is embarrassed with such things.

My suggestion: Ban alcohol and most of us will be happy.

Proud Emirati said...

Lastly, as much as I support the freedom of media as much I oppose the idea of voicing non Emirati concerns. Coming from mainly liberal western societies they will talk mainly about what concerns them and most of it wouldn't concern us Emiratis. In fact Emiratis might be against most of what they might say. Whether it was the freedom to get naked (sarcasm), acquire citizenship or anything most of you whine about almost everyday. So I'd rather have this type of censorship than letting them say whatever they want.

Proud Emirati said...

One more last thing. I'd like the media to talk about the real important issues like the demographic problem, losing our Islamic and Arabic identity,corruption, and anything that is really important to us. You can add prostitution too if u want !!

Sorry for ranting, but I had to say this.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Oh Dana El Baltaji, the name says it all.

samuraisam said...

proud emirati: Do you really think what you're saying is at all in parallel with what Dubai has been obviously aiming to achieve in the past few years?

Dubai has been steadily increasing access and promotion of alcohol over the last few years, Dubai world has investments in a casino, and the Burj Al Arab (most iconic structure in Dubai?) serves alcohol; I'm sure if Dubai was shamed by alcohol it wouldn't have it, but it does.
I still don't understand how you can sit there and honestly state that dubai is 'embarrassed' by alcohol-- alcohol has been here for years (even before the formation of the UAE) and isn't some magical plague of the white-man influx.

"Coming from mainly liberal western societies they will talk mainly about what concerns them and most of it wouldn't concern us Emiratis. In fact Emiratis might be against most of what they might say."
As the author points out--literally no locals work in the media; even so, what is to say all emirati's have a carbon copy of your opinion and your beliefs? Obviously if they did then alcohol would have been banned ages ago.

" I'd like the media to talk about the real important issues like the demographic problem, losing our Islamic and Arabic identity,corruption, and anything that is really important to us. You can add prostitution too if u want !!"
Unfortunately censorship isn't partial to your particular opinion, censorship applies to everything. It may all sound like peaches and cream; everything is working well for the UAE at the moment (or so it would seem, unfortunately due to the press no one knows what is going on), but when the shit hits the fan and people need a forum to criticize and it isn't there this country will experience a whole lot more instability than when a journalist states the UAE isn't a melting pot.

Laurie said...

@ p.e.'s 3rd comment:
I don't think you are losing your Islamic and Arab identity but rather selling it to the highest bidder.

Proud Emirati said...

samuraisam, Dubai don't want to be promoted itself in the local media, whether it was arabic or english as a place to drink alcohol. It is part of their pathetic strategy to keep a balance between the libral Dubai and the conservative Dubai.

Alcohol would not be banned simply because the the people in charge do drink. At the end of the day it is authority who decide whether to ban it or not and the people have nothing to say about it. Anyone who drink is target with shame in the Emirati society, whether u know it or not.

Ironically the freedom level of local English newspaper is way way higher than the Arabic ones. For example no Arabic newspaper stated the agreement with France to build a military base. How pathetic is that? and this is not the whole story.

Anyway, you just proved my point. what Dubai is aiming to achieve is not what us Emirati Dubaians want to achieve.

Proud Emirati said...

Laurie sad but true

nzm said...

Proud Emirati said:
Anyway, you just proved my point. what Dubai is aiming to achieve is not what us Emirati Dubaians want to achieve.

So why aren't the Emirati Dubaians speaking up against what's happening?

Or, are you doing this and it isn't being reported, or worse, even heard?

moviemania said...

He was going good but he lost my respect after this sentence "And the women who suffer the injustices of a so-called traditional society"

Why did he lose your respect? As an Emirati woman I myself have seen many injustices suffered by my countrywomen and even my own family members. From your comments it's obvious that you have one image of Emiratis and that you speak for all of us. It's simply not true, we aren't all like you. No disrespect ya5i, but I'm merely stating fact. Same goes for any population, you can't speak for everyone and generalize.

Proud Emirati said...

moviemania, the author doesn't earn my respect. How is that related to you?

To reply to ur comment, our society is far from perfect, no one denies that especially when it comes to how women and men are viewed. In many cases men can do whatever they want but women will be shamed if they did the same. No one argue with that. In fact I am totally against those double standards.

My argument is is actually what u were accusing me off. It is how she generalized how women are treated here in he so called traditional society.

Jawahir Jewels said...

salam and hello to all ... well i read the piece and the point he has made is true ok i am not an emaratie but we are neighbours, but i dont have a problem with censorship really... but then it all depends on the individual, however what i do object to is ppl not really seeing the bigger picture (ok the bubble will burst it always does) but what i am trying to say here is that ie refering to the woman and thier injustices of traditional sociaties (i wont deny that it is not there) but come on most women in our part of the world know how to get what they want and they do... and then always remeber that dubai actually has more natralised emaraties than the actual locals...and we all have rights (at least in oman we do)

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