Monday, 24 September 2007

Dubai journos jailed

Happy Ramadan for two Dubai journalists.
http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/07/09/24/10155815.html
Two journalists sentenced to jail for libel
By Bassam Za'za', Staff Reporter
Published: September 24, 2007, 00:25
Dubai: Two senior journalists have been jailed for two months each after they were found guilty in a libel case marking what judicial officials described as 'an unusual verdict'.

The Dubai Court of Misdemeanour found the senior Egyptian journalist and senior Indian editor guilty of libelling an Iranian woman.

The Public Prosecution charged the two defendants with publishing a defamatory article in the English newspaper where they work. In her complaint the woman accused the defendants of defaming her after publishing the story.

The article said the woman collected a dowry cheque of Dh83,000 which bounced when she went to cash it. She thereafter filed a police complaint against her divorcee. The court found the defendants guilty though they pleaded innocent.

Gulf News has learnt that defence lawyer Samir Jaafar is planning to appeal the initial verdict today. The ruling is still subject to appeal.

A former judge who requested anonymity described the ruling as 'uncommon and unusual especially in the UAE'.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

As usual for the Gulf News, the story has to be read at least twice to make sense and even then isn't entirely comprehensible.

Anonymous said...

While it isn't the best English you ever read. If you had to read it twice to understand it then it says more about you than it does about the article.

If you want - we can break it down into bite sized pieces for you?

dxbhack said...

Typical...a story highlighting a pretty serious issue for journalists is picked on from the off for petty reasons.

Perhaps a discussion about the worrying development of press freedom and two journalists being jailed in the UAE, coming soon after two internet writers were jailed?

Anyone know who the two people are?

Anonymous said...

Al Ittihad says it's Khaleej Times journalists who face being sent down (although sentence might be suspended).

Shimba Kassel (?) and Mohsen Rashid named as the journalists, according to the Arabic translation.

Anonymous said...

What I don't get about this story is what is actuallt libellous about it. Is it that the cheque bounced? That she filed a complaint with the police? It doesn't make sense. If it was the husband, I can maybe, maybe see why he'd bring a case - although presumably the usual defence of IT'S TRUE would be thrown out there just as quickly as it has been here... But what gives this woman the ability not just to sue, but to bring criminal charges? Far as I can make out, the only issue is that she's been named, as opposed to the usual tossing about with initials.
Look, I've been out here a while now, on a few different publications, and I've never found anyone - journos, lawyers, cops - who has a clue what the media law in this country actually is, beyond the "invisible lines" theory... Can anyone explain?

Anonymous said...

If she collected a cheque that bounced, surely the husband is the villain here for writing a bad cheque. And if all that is true and accurate, then exactly where is the libel??? Why does the Iranian woman feel defamed? Is she just embarrassed because her divorce was in the paper???

Two months - so one month shy of the standard sentence for raping a housemaid. What a great justice system.

Anonymous said...

I once asked a local friend of mine who is a lawyer why even in open court proceeding, suspects and those charged are never named in UAE papers.

From what I understand of his explanation of the laws of defamation here in the UAE, you can be found guilty of a crime before the courts, but still sue for defamation or libel if your name has been brought into disrepute in the wider community.

This is why you only every see initials used in stories about court cases even in capital cases like murder.

For western journalists this is a strange thing. By being found guilty of a crime, it is presumed this is a mark against someone's character and therefore, they are fair game.

But, here in the UAE it appears the key is, you are guilty ONLY before the court.

I guess this makes sense in a part of the world where honour and "face" are so important.

secretdubai said...

The UAE publications law is extremely nebulous, and basically makes anything potentially subject to prosecution. That doesn't mean all the stories that breach it (which is nearly every non-positive story published) will be prosecuted.

Regarding libel/defamation: truth is not a defence here. Other social and cultural mores such as "causing offence" will trump truth, as the poster above mentioned.

It's hard to know exactly what is or was intended by the publications law, (1) because it's highly unlikely those that wrote it understood anything about media/journalism/press legal issues - it appears to have been written in a complete vacuum of experience and knowledge, and (2) I have only the English translation. The Arabic is almost certainly more accurate and more deep, for example "involve insult to teenagers" sounds weird in English, but probably makes better sense in the original Arabic.

Should anyone want a copy of the English translation, just drop me an email.

Curious said...

One of them is someone I know called Mr. Neville Parker who presently acts as the editor for KT!

SD - I sure would like to see that copy.. but I see no email id on ur profile!

Anonymous said...

Further proof that this country has a lot of growing up to do.

secretdubai said...

Here we go:

UAE publications law on Scribd

I suggest downloading it as a pdf, it looks a bit weird online.

Free Mind said...

Thanks SD for the pdf link!

Katib said...

If the person sentenced is Mohsen Rashid acc. to Al Itthad - is this is the article that formed the basis of their sentencing???

Court rules in favour of KT in libel case - By Mohsen Rashid

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/Displayarticle.asp?section=theuae&xfile=data/theuae/2006/march/theuae_march500.xml

Anonymous said...

From today's Gulf News:

Shaikh Abdullah said Shaikh Mohammad issued instructions that no journalist is to be jailed for reasons related to his work, adding that there are other measures that may be taken against journalists who break the press and publication law, but not jail, WAM reported.

So that's all well and good but what if it is a law that is preventing a journalist from doing his (or her...) work. This defamed divorcee is a good example - because there don't seem to be laws in place to make stating a fact or fair comment defences against defamation, journalists will still struggle to do their jobs.

Anonymous said...

At least have the good grace to acknowledge the new law protecting journalists is a positive step. Although there are certainly frustrations perhaps it isn't all as sinister and evil as many on this blog would have us believe.

Anonymous said...

But if on one hand a journalist can't be jailed for reasons relating to his work but on the other hand, proper defences against defamation don't exist here, then everything Sheikh Mo has said has about as much force as a light breeze.

Anonymous said...

Well why don't you make a stand, write it up and see what happens? Yesterday's news couldn't be considered anything but a positive move, if only because it signals a direction and intent on behalf of government here. Or prhaps it's a dastardly scheme to lure journalists into a trap and fill the prisons. I would have thought news like that deserves a standalone post on this blog and not be buried at the bottom of some other string, even if it is related.

Anonymous said...

It's not a "dastardly scheme" - thay's a bit melodramatic - but it's not exactly heralding a golden age of free press either. It's toothless tiger stuff.

Anonymous said...

It would just be more constructive if journalists picked this up and ran with it rather than constantly taking the most negative view of everything. No one's asking for a rose coloured view of the world but there must be a more reasoned, or even academic, discussion around initiatives like this for the media to develop and grow.

Anonymous said...

Anyone seen this: "Philippa Kennedy is off to Dubai soon to edit the UAE version of Time Out, one of the magazines published under licence by ITP, a company chaired by former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil."?

Does Philippa, former editor of the Press Gazette in the UK, know what she's getting in to?

Can anyone imagine her sharing a sandwich with Serefin and Bhoyrul at lunchtime?

I can't.

Anonymous said...

Her tenure at Press Gazette saw her far more famous for the time she spent on golf courses with her old cronies than being in the office, leaving her underlings to produce the magazine. So she'll fit in with Bhoyrul just fine.

Anonymous said...

"The immunity against imprisonment is limited to journalists doing their job when they report factual incidents. The immunity will not be enforced in case they harm others while expressing their personal views."

This is what the Dubai Police chief told Gulf News about this alleged new free press we have here. So it doesn't offer anyone any protection if thet are writing any sort of opinion piece, be it political comment or a bloody restaurant review. Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

So, is anyone going to kick off the debate about that Hitler ad in yesterday's Gulf News Property supplement?

Hats off to GN for testing the boundaries of this new fangled press freedom thingamajig.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to put a pig in a yarmulke on the cover of the next edition along with a travel story on great synagogues of the world and a feature on where the gay bars are in Dubai. I fully expect to enjoy the protection of the brilliant laws here as it will all be factual.

Anonymous said...

You can buy Mein Kampf at the Spinneys bookstores, so Hitler as an advertising icon is hardly shocking. Better homes use images of Che Guevera to sell property, not sure if the irony is deliberate or not. Can't see the value in exposing gay bars just to make a point unless you advocate prosecution of their customers. Honestly, people who feign indignity because the authorities don't aggressively chase down prostitution and homosexuality even though they're illegal are just tedious. Pig in a yarmulke? Why not try that in Israel, or New York and see how the law treats you?

Anonymous said...

The point of all this is not freedom of the press but the use of Hitler's image and what he stood for to sell property. It's hardly good PR for the UAE's media is it?
Also, try running an ad like that using Ariel Sharon's image and watch what happens. The Gulf News would have been razed to the ground.

Anonymous said...

The journos were cheated by thier editor who insist on attaching the name of defendants on a seperate paper.So instead of printing the initials of the names the editor went with the full names.This is the whole issue, writing the names thus defaming them.Soon there will be the finalised UAE media law.Keep fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

No it's not good PR or even good advertising. But I've seen ads for Capital One credit cards that use Genghis Khan as an image, I think I recall Stalin's image also being used for something. So add unoriginal to the list. It's not really a reflection of the press, more an indictment of the ad agency and their client. But yes, this ad went through a lot of filters, including the newspaper, and got published. It's interesting because its originators were probably Western agency types and the sensitivity of that image should be known to everyone anyway. So the question is do people cast off their own standards of decency when they know they're in markets where it will fly?

Anonymous said...

"Can't see the value in exposing gay bars just to make a point unless you advocate prosecution of their customers."

See - that's exactly the problem. If you were to run an article on where the gay bars are, you'd get into strife even though you'd be stating facts. The only standpoint to take would be to advocate prosecution of customers - but that is expressing an opinion, not reporting a fact, so you won't be protected by law here anyway. And if you truthfully expose a bar as being a gay hangout and it's a bar that's owned by someone powerful, again you can't expect to be protected. And naturally if you were to write an opinion piece advocating the decriminalisation of homosexuality, you can expect to be on the next plane home.

Yes, these new laws are such a victory for free speech...

Anonymous said...

Wahey! We have a code of ethics! Thoughts? Is this the end of free Samsung phones for certain people?

http://www.gulfnews.com/nation/Media/10157742.html

Anonymous said...

Ohmygod... not only is the person an alcoholic but also racist!
Why is this being greeted by such silence on this blog?
Could it be that all the contributors have been recently reemployed? Happily, for now?

Anonymous said...

the racial lines that divide the newsroom at lovely emirates toady have finally made it to this blog. why has it taken so long?


on the topic, does anyone know which side mustafa bats for? browns or whites? or does he bat for both?

Anonymous said...

but where are the gay hangouts? besides a particular public area in jumiera?

Anonymous said...

but where are the gay hangouts? besides a particular public area in jumiera?

Anonymous said...

Let's hope no one on this blog responds to the request to out the gay bars. Find another cause to prove your point.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of so called "freedom of speech", can anyone enlighten us to the where-abouts of Vix and Nannette from Dubai Eye? The Dubai rumor mill is rife with whispers of letters from high up to pull the show and presenters due to certain remarks said on-air.

Anonymous said...

Calling racism and bullying 'racial divides' is prettifying the issue.

Why has it taken so long to appear on this blog...? I wonder.

Why is this blog so sleepy now? Gainful reemployment for the bullies of ET and ITP?

Conmy's Wig said...

The only thing that's sleepy is the moderators. There are usually interesting comments to be found, but the mods can rarely be arsed to turn the issues raised into threads in their own right.
Bunch of lazy journos. No wonder none of them can hold down proper jobs...

Anonymous said...

This is serious issue - the kind this blog should be raising. Why is it just in the "comments"?