The UAE's Media Landscape
The United Arab Emirates boasts of several English-language publications. These include:
- 7 Days , a free, tabloid newspaper launched in 2003 and targeted "at the urbanite population of Dubai-young, affluent and multi cultural."
- Gulfnews , which launched online in 1996 to complement its print edition, itself launched in 1978 by UAE businessman Abdullah Abulhoul from Dubai. Now owned by Al Nisr Publishing and run by UAE businessmen Obaid Humaid Al Tayer and Juma Al Majid, the paper has a daily circulation of about 94,000.
- The Gulf Today , published since 1996 by Dar Al Khaleej Printing & Publishing in Sharjah (one of the lesser-known emirates) and aimed at the UAE's non-Arab expatriates, who form 90% of the UAE's workforce.
- The Khaleej Times , a 70,000-circulation daily broadsheet published by Galadari Printing and Publishing from Dubai. Khaleej Times likes to list both the arch-conservative Henry Kissinger and the ultra-liberal Noam Chomsky on its list of columnists.
- The UAE also has a few online-only news and information sources such as the Dubai Chronicle , and eight or 10 Arabic-language newspapers.
State of the Media in the UAE
Variety and diversity of media doesn't necessarily mean press freedom. UAE media subscribe to that widespread tradition among newspaper, television and radio outlets in the Arab world: Speak ill of the West all you like, but say nothing unseemly about local rulers.
On Feb. 12, 2008, 20 of the 22 member nations of the Arab League went much further. They approved a so-called "media charter," initiated by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that allows the two countries to deny television station access to their satellites and to ban any television channel the regimes decide to ban. The charter is a frontal assault on fledgling Arab media. As Simon Mars wrote in The National [/link">,
The charter starts off well enough, insisting that freedom of expression should be the cornerstone of the Arab media. But it soon becomes pretty obvious that it would prefer people to express that freedom in a restrained and decorous manner: in order to protect "the supreme interests of the Arab States and Arab Nation", broadcasters should "not adversely affect civil peace, national unity, public order and public morals ." And who represents those interests? The region's leaders, of course. The charter is specific: they must be neither insulted nor defamed.Lebanon, whose media are, next to Israel, the freest in the Middle East, was the only country to vote against the charter. Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera , the satellite news network, abstained.
The Blackout of 2007
In mid-November 2007, as Pakistan was roiling from Pakistani Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf 's latest declaration of martial law, two Pakistani TV stations in Dubai, Geo News and Ary One World, were simply turned off by Emirati authorities-at the behest of Musharraf. (A large portion of the Emirates' labor force is Pakistani.)
"Pressure by Gen. Musharraf, a notorious press freedom predator, on the Dubai authorities constitutes outrageous interference," Reporters Without Borders said . "Not content with silencing Geo TV and Ary One in Pakistan, he has gone so far as to get a foreign government to suspend the two stations." The stations resumed broadcasting as pressure mounted on Musharraf and eventually discredited his coup .
Into the Breach: The National's Ambition
The National culled its staff of 200 from the newsrooms of The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in the United States, and from Britain's Times and Daily Telegraph, among other sources. Newland himself had been a reporter at The Daily Telegraph early in his career, then its editor from October 2003 to November 2005 (the paper had a circulation of about 900,000 at the time of his resignation). In between, he helped launch Canada's National Post, the daily founded in 1998 by the controversial, and now convicted felon, Conrad Black , who's serving a six-year sentence in a federal prison near Orlando, Fla.
Newland is a conservative who reportedly mulled a run in England's parliamentary elections two years ago. The National's opinion pages, however, sound more liberal than most American newspapers-at least when it comes to the beleaguered state of American foreign policy, the "war on terror," the war in Iraq, and Israeli-Palestinian issues.