Archive for Freedom of speech

Apathy in the UAE

Posted in Censorship with tags , , , , , on March 1, 2009 by jacquesrenault

One particular topic that has been reverberating around the UAE in the past weeks has been the issue of freedom of speech and censorship. First it was the new media law being passed which seemingly sent out a confused message of both supporting journalistic freedom but at the same time indicating that if any writer steps out of line then they can be punished with fines of up of 500,000 dirhams. And then last week, a new row erupted over a book that had apparently been banned from the Dubai Literary festival because it made reference to a gay sheihk. Alot of misunderstanding followed, particualrly between the organisers and Margaret Atwood but the exciting thing that transpired was that there would be new slot at the festival to discuss the importance of free speech in a civilised society. A big step forward.

I went. Seemingly nobody else in Dubai did. Admittedly it was at 9 am on a saturday but the turn out was pretty shocking. This was the one chance to make strides in relation to what people (particularly in the media) have been saying about freedom of speech in Dubai. The really sad thing was that this is clearly a discussion that the outside world feels is of importance. I noticed in the half empty conference room, Kate Aidie (the bbc reporter, Ian Hislop (private eye editor and TV personality) and other authors from the festival. The reason for peoples absence I can only put down to apathy. If you live in a country that constantly wears people down with the limiting of your democratic rights but fattens them up by paying them more than they would in their home countries, you cant be surprised if the inhabitants end up not truely feeling as passionate about things as they normally would.