Sunday, 20 November 2011

The National: a law unto itself

Reader submission about a recent story that The National declined to cover, a story that happened "in its backyard":

"This type of self-censorship is common at the paper, which is not serving its readership well.

"In addition, the paper is said losing money at an alarming rate - its circulation has been frozen in place for several years now, and its employee-turnover rate is said to be ridiculously high. What is going on at The National?


The International Bar Association held its annual conference in Dubai this month, but the event, which is planned five years in advance, almost never happened. Seems that several weeks before the event was to begin UAE security officials grew worried that some of the seminars/programs might be too dangerous. [see links below]

Unfortunately, readers of Abu Dhabi’s The National (whose editors have said "strives to be The New York Times of the Middle East") interested in such topics (freedom of speech, etc) would be left in the dark, because the paper declined to cover this important angle of the story.

The National did give readers this paean to women’s rights in the UAE, which includes the following paragraph.

"For me, the most exciting part has been watching young female lawyers in the UAE become so excited to attend the IBA congress and other events being held in Dubai this week. To see how thrilled these young women are to meet lawyers of leading firms from the world's capital cities is brilliant - and the fact that so many local law firms have decided to register their female staff is a sign that the practice in the UAE is progressing, despite the glass ceiling for female lawyers worldwide."

The irony in this is more than rich when one reads the following:

"However, Mr. Ellis [IBA official] did change the title of one session that security officials objected to, entitled "Women in Islam, Challenges and Opportunities," to "Women in Law, Challenges and Opportunities." Members of the women’s committee then declared the new title too "dull," he said, and opted to scrap the session.

In addition, the paper published a piece on a speech Mohamed ElBaradei made to IBA conference attendees in which included the following sentence: He said new governments would need to ensure citizens were involved in every strata of governance and law, and must be accountable and transparent.

This type of "coverage" is rampant at The National, and has increased.

Links to coverage of the IBA conference:

UAE threatened to cancel law conference in Dubai
Lawyer defends decision to hold conference in Dubai
IBA Dubai 2011: the conference that almost never was
IBA Dubai slammed for erasing women's issues from agenda