A curious development given the bad state of press freedom in Dubai:
Sheikh Mohammed, Dubaiâs Crown Prince, has called for a new era of press freedom in the United Arab Emirates. In mid-October, he waxed poetic before 500 journalists at his palace, saying, âThe UAE will continue to be an oasis of freedom, democracy and co-existence. It will also remain a podium for true words.â? But while local reports heralded the speech, they failed to mention that the UAE ranks a lowly 137th (out of 167 countries) in the 2004 Index of Press Freedom, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog in France. âLinks between the media, the governments and powerful businessmen are so close that self-censorship is often the only way possible for journalists,â? wrote the organisation in its annual report on the region.
Still, many journalists working in Dubai and the UAE claim conditions are improving. International correspondents are largely free to report what they wish, and even local media organisations, which usually face more pressure, can now criticise government policy and state-run businessesâcommentary that would have been impossible even five years ago.