staff was sacked | Even under the rigorous press regulations of the United Arab Emirates, editors concluded that the piece concerning rising fuel prices was safe.
Instead, it sparked a riot at the Dubai newspaper Al Roeya. Top editors were questioned within days. Within a few weeks, the print newspaper was disbanded and scores of employees were let go.
staff was sacked
International Media Investments, or IMI, the newspaper’s publisher located in Abu Dhabi, said that Al Roeya’s closure was solely due to its conversion into a new Arabic-language business outlet with CNN.
The Associated Press was informed by eight persons with direct knowledge of the newspaper’s mass firings that the layoffs took place right after the piece on petrol prices in the United Arab Emirates.
Their accounts—which they shared anonymously out of concern for retaliation—illustrate the restrictions on speech in the totalitarian country, where domestic media is strictly regulated. In the UAE, which markets itself as a globalised destination appealing to visitors, investors, and Western media corporations, self-censorship is rampant among journalists at local sources expected to offer a stream of positive news.
Cathryn Grothe, a Middle East research specialist at the Washington-based organisation Freedom House, said: “The UAE presents itself as liberal and open to business while continuing its repression.
” Both online and offline censorship are pervasive. It restricts the amount of work that journalists can complete. Just a few weeks before Al Roeya’s stated closure, IMI declined to comment on the article.
The business emphasised that the decision to create CNN Business Arabic was the result of months of discussions.
In order to give Arab youth local and international news, IMI relaunched Al Roeya, which is Arabic for “The Vision,” three years ago. It was established in 2012.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the wealthy brother of the president of the UAE who also owns the British football team Manchester City, is the owner of IMI. Major IMI outlets include Sky News Arabia and the English-language broadsheet newspaper The National.
Al Roeya followed the UAE’s official line while also offering in-depth business news.
The article came together earlier this summer, when exorbitant costs were the talk of the town, according to staff members. The oil-producing UAE has gradually eliminated fuel subsidies, unlike its neighbours. People used to low-cost fuel and welfare from birth to death felt the pinch after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused oil prices to rise.
Al Roeya conducted interviews with Emiratis who have used cost-cutting strategies. A few locals who reside close to the Omani border, where government subsidies result in fuel prices that are half those in the UAE, told Al Roeya that they entered the sultanate to refuel their vehicles. Some allegedly even had additional gasoline tanks installed in their cars.
On June 2, the news quickly went viral on social media, notably the anecdote regarding cross-border fuel fill-ups. However, the item was taken down from the website within a few hours and was never printed.
Days later, a few of the article’s participants received calls to the office. According to those aware with the situation, they were fired from their jobs and subjected to in-depth questioning from IMI and Al Roeya representatives as well as a lawyer regarding each action and person involved in the story’s production, editing, and publication.
The group was offered the option to quit with increased perks or be fired with potential penalties a week later. According to a copy of one of these letters acquired by the AP, those who signed a resignation letter pledged not to discuss the details of their terminations or disparage the newspaper.
Top editors were among the eight forced to resign. Mood fell drastically.
IMI CEO Nart Bouran stopped by the newsroom for an all-hands meeting more than a week later.
According to several with knowledge of the newspaper’s internal talks, the surviving employees had no reason to fear for their employment going into the meeting.
Senior IMI administrators allegedly promised staff that their jobs were secure during the course of the previous year as the paper’s editorial focus changed primarily to business news.
Instead, Bouran announced the closure of Al Roeya and the impending debut of the CNN-affiliated Arabic business channel. Those in the know reported that at least 35 people lost their employment in a single day. Others claimed that hundreds more employees were fired with severance money on top of that.