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Censorship Laws in UAE

Surfers Respond
Gulf News - 18, 19 April 2000
"Censorship laws are a drawback to the development of the press in the region," Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Information and Culture, stated in the recently concluded GCC Editors Conference. He called for the easing of such laws.

Coming from one of the premier ruling families of the Gulf, and in a region not known for a free press, the call, is a landmark by itself. Do you believe the newspapers in the region, are telling you like it is?

The collapse of censorship
Sheikh Abdullah predicted "I foresee the collapse of censorship and publishing laws in the next five years." The Internet is apparently forcing the doors open. As Sheikh Abdullah conceded, "Around 1.5 million people in the Arab world are using the Internet and the number is expected to increase substantially in the next five years, with more than 25 million people using the Web. Our press should not be conventional on one side and technologically advanced on the other".

Quality of news
Censorship has always been the print media''s favourite whipping boy. The quality of news gathering and relevance to the readers are conveniently swept under the carpet. Questioning the role played by English language newspapers, Sheikh Abdullah asked,"Are these papers meant merely for reporting news of other countries, especially Asian countries, for expatriates in our countries?"

Everything is taboo
The lack of a proactive approach to our lives in this region is sorely felt. Newspapers cannot discuss local politics or religion. The crime rate is taboo as well. Financial compulsions will not allow you to cross swords with businesses or even criticise them mildly. Economic recession is glossed over and for all purposes, it is business as usual in Dubai.

Assembly line production
Whereas in democracies, you have a choice ''between the liars'', newspapers in the Gulf have mastered the art of imitation. For the reading public, the choice between newspapers is not content-based as much as it depends on the freebies the marketing juggernaut offers the subscribers.

Do you believe the newspapers in the region are telling you like it is?

Surfers Respond

George, Dubai
Since politics and religion are ruled out and crime is totally concealed, there is really nothing to discuss, is there? So if you have nothing to discuss within your own country, you seek news outside the country, while the magazines out here would give you information on how magnolia trees are grown! There needs to be a revamp. Censorship laws here are outdated. They must be revised. Feel free to keep porn out, but keep the people informed about increasing crime rate and other issues that touch their everyday lives.

Do you believe the newspapers in the region are telling you like it is?

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