Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center

Media role in the fight against detainees of conscience

16 May 2022
متوفر باللغة

UAE media ignored the annual Press Freedom Index od Reporters Without Borders at the beginning of this month, as no media outlet inside the UAE has referred to the classification in any meaning.

Although the UAE media usually participates in celebrating all international occasions such as Women’s Day and Happiness Day and other occasions, and refers to what it calls the UAE’s achievements, it strangely ignored the celebration or reference to World Press Freedom Day, although this day is more important It is one of the most celebrated occasions by the Emirati press, and it is also the most damaging to its work.

The fact that the Emirati media ignored the Press Freedom Index and the World Press Freedom Day was not surprising, especially since the international index revealed that press freedom in the UAE fell seven places at once to rank 138 out of 180 countries evaluated by the index.

The UAE’s ranking in 138th place indicates that it is among the countries where press freedom is difficult or bad, and the UAE’s regression of seven places confirms the increase in violations against the press in the country, and the suppression of media freedom.

According to the report, the UAE authorities silence dissenting voices, curb independent press, whether local or foreign, and prosecute, harass and arrest Emirati expatriate journalists.

The report confirms that most of the Emirati media are owned by institutions close to the government and adopting their orientations, and that the National Media Council, a government institution that regulates the work of media institutions, does not hesitate to impose censorship on content that criticizes government decisions.

The report adds that the National Media Council uses the phrase “social cohesion” and other vague phrases as an excuse to silence any voice that does not conform to the government’s line, pointing out that these measures are not limited to the local press, but also include foreign media publications, which the National Council subjects to the same standards. applied to national newspapers, and does not hesitate to impose penalties on them as well.

The report said that the UAE has become an expert in electronic monitoring of journalists and bloggers, who find themselves under the microscope of the authorities as soon as they make a somewhat critical comment. They are usually accused of defamation, insulting the state, or publishing false information with the aim of discrediting the country, as harsh sentences await them for long prison terms, pointing out that the UAE authorities arrest dozens of politicians, including journalists, writers and Authors. During the last period, it arrested several journalists, most of them foreigners, for criticizing their country's authorities.

According to the report, the security mentality prevails in the UAE in dealing with the media and freedom of opinion and expression through a series of laws that represent a sword wielded over anyone who expresses his opinion on the internal or foreign policy of the state.

The report notes that the Emirati authorities have been sanctioning journalists since the enactment of the Cybercrime Law (2012), which was updated in 2021, adding long prison sentences and high fines to its texts.

In fact, although the report clearly and unambiguously monitors the dire situation in which press freedom is living in the UAE, starting with the government’s control of the media and ending with the muzzling laws, it does not refer to the misleading propaganda practiced by the Emirati press and its negative effects.

The problem is not only that the freedom of the press in the Emirates is under the control of the government, but in the dangerous roles that the Emirati press plays in promoting the government’s propaganda and misinformation. the UAE 94 case may be one of the most famous examples of the misleading role played by the Emirati press.

When the UAE authorities arrested a large group of human rights activists and academics in the case known in the media as Emirates 94, the government media launched organized smear campaigns against detainees of conscience.

For example, on September 20, 2012, the Emirates Today newspaper wrote an article accusing the detainees of the Emirates 94 of forming a military wing, and this accusation was not directed by the prosecution against them. It contains evidence of the accusation of the military wing, which is a picture of some detainees playing paintball

On January 23, 2013, an Emirati writer named Fadela Al-Muaini published an article in "Al-Bayan" newspaper under the title: "A group that represents only itself," in which she described the detainees of conscience as a gang and a cowardly secret organization with subversive ideas.

On January 31, 2013, the Sudanese writer, Mirghani Mutasim, published an article in Al-Roya newspaper, in which he claimed that the detainees follow secrecy and esoteric methods to achieve their goals, through espionage, conspiracy, planning physical assassinations and practicing violence, claiming that they are hiding under the guise of faith.

In Ramadan 2016, Abu Dhabi TV produced a series called “Betrayal of a Homeland” to distort the detainees despite the issuance of the rulings. It is worth noting that the series included a character impersonating one of the founders of the state, Sheikh Saqr bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, may Allah have mercy on him, the former ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, for his role in sponsoring the activities of "Al-Islah Association".

Of course, these examples are only a small fraction of false information, incitement, and an attempt to influence public opinion that the Emirati press was practicing against detainees of conscience in order to distort their image under the auspices of the state.