Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Klassik Keefieboy

Yesterday was Press Freedom Day, and it reminded me of a piece I wrote about it last year. Here it is:

I don't actually consider myself to be a member of the Press, but it is fairly obvious that publishing a blog is no different from any other form of publishing, and should be subject to the same laws and regulations that govern what can and cannot be said in a public forum.

Today is International Press Freedom Day, and Gulf News have devoted a fair chunk of articles to that topic. They highlight the fact that since the establishment of Media City four years ago, Sheikh Mohammed (the boss) has made many speeches encouraging the Press to exercise its freedom. But GN points out that the media are still covered by the outdated Press and Publishing Law, and, whatever Sheikh Mohammed says, the law is what counts in court. So there is a huge element of self-censorship.I must admit I am always on my guard about what I write in this blog. I have had experiences in this country that would astonish you, but I will not write about them until I get a personal letter from Sheikh Mohammed saying it's ok. I frequently find myself in a tizz in the mornings, having published something that may come across as overly-critical or true but not acceptable. I did it yesterday in the piece about the Codeine case . I deleted a paragraph that mentioned human rights, lack thereof. I happen to think that what I said was true, but I have no desire to endanger myself or my family.

And you're sitting there, safe in your Western country. You might read the Gulf News stories on their website, and notice that there is no mention of any journo's getting into trouble in the UAE. And that's where the self-censorship comes in again. I know of 3 or 4 cases of media people in the UAE who have got themselves into hot water over things they had written or broadcast. Admittedly these are all from more than five years ago, so maybe things really have changed. But we all have nice lives here and we do not want to put them at risk.

So until we get a change in the Federal Law that says 'you can say whatever you want as long as you can prove it is true (in the case of suspected defamation) and it does not contravene the religious and moral traditions of the country', I will, sadly, be self-censoring like crazy.And sometime soon I'll publish some uplifting articles about how great living in this place is.

Yow! So what's changed in a year? Not a lot. We've had the bright, brave and fearless Emirates Today apparently slapped in the chops and ordered to toe the party line. We have 6Days getting fairly uppity on a few issues and their letters page becoming a sounding box for Brits who don't understand why Dubai should not be a tax-free, sun-drenched replica of Britain. Khaleej Times have sacked all of their journos who could write properly in English. And the Gulf News soldiers on with coverage that ranges from outstanding (by local standards) to pathetic. Oh and Gulf Today still hopes to sell a copy. And the Evening thing continues to be a distribution failure but even when you can find one it's just too uglee to read.

Still no change whatsoever to the Federal Publications Law, but we did have a top judge saying that journalists should never be locked up for anything they write in the course of their job.

So that's a good thing.

On the subject of Klassik Keefieboy, I can't believe how long and boring my posts used to be! And that hospital story. Well! Check it out.

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