21 January, 2009

English newspapers in the United Arab Emirates: Navigating the crowded market

That's the title of a research article in Arab Media & Society by Peyman Pejman an associate professor of journalism and communication at Zayed University in Dubai. In addition to interviews with editors of all six daily English newspapers he also conducted content analysis of the papers. He concludes:
While English papers in the UAE might be dealing a bit more seriously with old or emerging social issues – not political and not much in the financial realm– but their treatment of those issues still resembles, to borrow a term from Pintak, “behavior of a lapdog and not a watchdog.” But will the performance of English newspapers improve? Absolutely; it already has with the debut of The National and reorganization of the Khaleej Times. At the same time, that improvement so far has been in layout and design, not necessarily the content. The National’s editor said he had hoped the launching of his paper “would be a bomb under the journalism market” that could shake up the industry. “When I [launched] the National Post in Canada, it created a market for journalism. Suddenly journalism was valued. Suddenly journalists were valued. That did not happen here.”
That's interesting in light of reports of the consideration of a new gag law prohibiting publication of information that damages "the country's reputation or harms its economy" (shameless plug to my own blog).


DUBAI JAZZ said...

Anybody has any idea why the Lebanese daily star ceased updating its website since the 14th of Jan?

I heard the hard paper is not circulating too.

It would be a shame if it stopped for good.

Anonymous said...

It's worth noting that while dailies, for the most part, are government propaganda tools, but I think they neglect the country's primary dailies, which are the Arabic ones. So, for this being the most comprehensive research carried out on the topic to date, we are not even close to proper research.

Arabic dailies are not as restricted in their content, especially that Emirati participation is higher. This results in journalists acting as ones, without the fear of being shipped out back to their home countries (or face fines and/or jail).

Also, magazines are more daring in their editorials. While one cannot ignore the market factor (applicable to publishers worldwide and the eternal advertising vs. editorial battle), some magazines prove themselves to be written by true journalists. Trends and Sani'o Al Hadath are two that come to mind.

alexander... said...

Sorry, John, but that's not a 'new gag law' but a long-awaited (hopes-dashed) update to the original, 1980, publishing law of the UAE. That law governed my work here since my first trip in 1988 and moving here to start a publishing operation in 1993. It was always a mad and strange law. And was always, by your definition, a 'gag' law.

The new law gags, arguably, less than the old law. But it is being implemented in a far different environment.

I do think it's unfair to call it a gag law. The gags aren't, by any means, in the letter of the law here but in the application of the law and in the reaction of business interests to the actions of the media.

If the law is useable as a gag it will only be because the judiciary is using the widest possible evaluation of the statute - the law itself is arguably so wide, so grey, so imprecise that you could free anyone with it. Or gag anyone with it.

And now, the shameless plug to my own post on that same: FPS!

Keefieboy said...

It is a gag, Alexander. No more, no less. It is so vaguely written that just about anyone in the UAE could find themselves facing a 1,000,000 dirham fine. Simply for writing the truth as they see it.

I continue to have zero confidence in the UAE 'judicial' system, and am extremely happy to have left its sphere of influence.

John B. Chilton said...

Thanks, Alexander. I sensed that new law wasn't much different from the existing environment and wasn't sure the Wall Street Journal's report didn't make it sound like a tightening of controls. But there again, The National's coverage doesn't make that clear either -- in short, I'm not convinced one way or the other. In any event, I'm adding your post to my Emirates Economist post.

The Spear said...

Keefieboy, I wish I can I agree with you, but I don't want to go to jail, so I disagree. How dare you?

Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

Tonight at the Mamoura building in Abu Dhabi (15th and Muroor) there is a discussion open to the public. It's titled: "In the Public Eye: Media and Civil Society in the Arab World". Scholars and media practioners from around the Middle East will participate (people from AUB, AUC, Georgetown U in Qatar, Al ARabiya, and The National newspaper). I'll head over-hope to do a blog on it.

Keefieboy said...

@The Spear - how dare I what?

Teacher4U said...

I think it is a good idea to have "gag Laws" the help prevent news media to deceive or make a illusion of facts to make up a threory that supports their personal opinion. In the U.S.A. right now we are facing a media problem where one news company is like I said making up thier own theories to back up their own personal opinions, as in Rush limbaugh and fox news. What that has done is seperating the community of USA that Obama has helped unite, into a more Republican (racist ideas) and democratic country. Which is not going to do us or anybody in the world any good.

Keefieboy said...

You have libel and slander laws for that. This 'gag' idea is to try to prevent people speaking the truth about the economy and the property market. It's not a good idea at all.

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