National Media Council criticised for not aggressively pursuing emiratisation

The NMC was also criticized for the lack of coordination between the media outlets and universities, lack of training programmes for journalists and broadcasters, and a failure by media outlets to address concerns of citizens.


Abu Dhabi: The National Media Council (NMC), the UAE's media regulatory body, yesterday came under fire from the Federal National Council (FNC) for its "meagre role in [the] Emiratisation of the media, dominance of foreign media content and lack of plans to promote the [UAE's] cultural identity."

The NMC was also criticised for the lack of coordination between the media outlets and universities, lack of training programmes for journalists and broadcasters, and a failure by media outlets to address concerns of citizens.

The FNC also voiced concern over the NMC's failure to boost freedom of expression and journalists' access to information.

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, a member from Abu Dhabi, demanded that a law be issued to impose a quota for Emirati journalists and broadcasters and set a time-frame for Emiratising editors, section heads and managers of human resources in all media outlets in the country.

"Emirati broadcasters account for only 17.8 per cent of the total staff of radio and TV [stations], while the percentage is as low as 10 per cent in the press," Dr Amal said.

Mismanagement

Dr Amal also blamed the NMC for its failure to provide protection to Emirati journalists and broadcasters "who suffer from mismanagement and an unattractive and discouraging environment."

She said experienced Emirati journalists and writers were retired early by local media outlets.

"Have you ever heard of a journalist or a writer being sent to retirement?" she asked.

Saqr Gobash Saeed Gobash, Minister of Labour and chairman of the NMC, said discussions in the FNC lacked a uniform stand on the issue of freedom of expression.

"Some members demand a higher ceiling of freedom, while others call for censorship. Occasionally, the same member calls for both, which is confusing," Gobash said.

Asserting that the NMC oversees the media outlets, but never controls them, Gobash added that the draft media law, which was approved by the FNC, laid down set limits.

"The present legislation does not provide for enforcing an Emiratisation policy or quota. However, with the draft media law being enacted into a law, the NMC will have a stronger role in [the] Emiratisation of journalists and broadcasters in the media outlets," he said.

Gobash reiterated that the NMC respected the editorial policies of all media outlets operating in the country and that it never intervened in their work or nature of their content.

"The country's policy is to leave the executive work to the media outlets, whether owned by the local governments or the private sector, so that there will be no contradiction between [the NMC's] work and theirs," he added.

Gobash said media outlets are "our partners and they are wholeheartedly contributing to the UAE's media strategies."

The UAE's draft media law, which was approved by the FNC in January last year, is awaiting approval by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The 45-article draft document, which would replace the existing 30-year-old statute, has sparked debate with its supporters saying it will protect journalists while its critics contend it will only continue to stifle freedom of expression.

The FNC praised instructions by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, that no journalist should be jailed for reasons related to his work. It also praised the creation of a specialised court in Abu Dhabi to hear lawsuits involving the media, including cases of libel, defamation and false reporting.

FNC progresses despite rains

All members feared the session would be delayed once more thinking that the bad weather might prevent Saqr Gobash, the chairman of the National Media Council (NMC) from attending. When he arrived, shortly after Anwar Gargash, minister of state for FNC Affairs, Ahmad Bin Shabib, first Deputy Speaker of the FNC, who chaired the session, announced happily that the session was complete with the attendance of 29 members.

Member Amal Al Qubaisi said one of the main obstacles that media staff face in general and the press in particular is poor treatment from the organizations they work in, that are run mostly by unqualified, inexperienced or unprofessional management. Consequently, most of the national newspapers have pushed away the qualified people and the young national generation.

Hussain Al Shaafar was satisfied with a written answer from Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research regarding the designated places for students' rest. However, member Majid Al Mansouri didn't accept the written answer from the Minister of Social Affairs Mariam Al Roumi and asked for her presence in the next session in order to discuss this issue.

In response to Member Amer Abdul Jalil, who asked about denying the children of UAE women married to foreigners the right to register their real-estate, Jua'an Al Daheri Minister of Justice confirmed that the government is preparing a federal law regarding this issue.

- Member Ali Jassim has criticised the report written by his colleagues (members of the Media Committee at the FNC) which angered the rest and the president had to interfere to calm all members down and keep the session on the right track.

-Jassim asked the English language press in the UAE to provide more space to national news and features.

Health hazard: Waste challenge

The Federal National Council (FNC) was on Tuesday told that waste was being haphazardly dumped in the northern emirates, threatening the natural resources and the quality of life of people in those areas.

"Waste is dumped haphazardly in the northern emirates, threatening underground water and other natural resources. Medical wastes are imported from Germany and treated in a free zone and [as soon as] the plant is closed, it [is] opened in another emirate," said Hamad Harith Al Midfa, a member from Sharjah.

Al Midfa quizzed Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Water and Environment, on waste management in the UAE.

He said waste was managed and treated correctly only in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

"[However,] other emirates lack waste management policies and infrastructure."

Al Midfa also blamed the Ministry of Environment and Water for its lack of plans geared to improving the ecological footprint of the country. Originally published by Gulf News. Story by Abdullah Rashid, Abu Dhabi Editor, and Samir Salama, Associate Editor.

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