Shooting at a UAE Newspaper | The closure of Al Roeya reflects the limits set on freedom of speech and local media in the UAE.
An article on how Emiratis were struggling this summer due to rising fuel prices was published in a local newspaper. The paper’s print edition was discontinued within a few weeks, and numerous employees were fired.
Editors concurred that the story concerning exorbitant fuel costs in Dubai’s Al Roeya daily was judged safe even under the rigorous press laws of the United Arab Emirates.
However, within days, senior editors were questioned, scores of workers were let off, and the print newspaper stopped publishing.
Al Roeya was shut down, according to International Media Investments, or IMI, the newspaper’s proprietor, because CNN was converting it into a new Arabic-language business channel.
The Associated Press was informed by eight persons who had firsthand knowledge of the newspaper’s widespread layoffs that they occurred immediately after the report on UAE gasoline prices.
They provided their experiences under the condition of anonymity out of concern for retaliation, which reflects the restrictions placed on local media and free speech in the UAE.
Shooting at a UAE Newspaper|Self-censorship is rife
Observers claim that local media journalists frequently use self-censorship.
Cathryn Grothe, a Middle East research specialist at the Washington-based organisation Freedom House, told the AP that “the UAE promotes itself as liberal and open to business while continuing its repression.”
“Online and offline censorship are pervasive… It restricts the amount of work that journalists can complete.
The corporation emphasised that its ambitions to create CNN Business Arabic came after months of negotiations but IMI declined to comment on the subject.
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. The National, a broadsheet newspaper in English, and Sky News Arabia are important IMI publications.
Earlier this year, while gas costs were skyrocketing, the piece that sparked the paper’s dilemma was published.
Fuel subsidies phased out
The UAE, unlike its neighbours, has gradually ended fuel subsidies, leaving locals who were used to cheap gasoline shocked as oil prices rose as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Al Roeya spoke with Emiratis who have used cost-cutting strategies for the story.
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.
On June 2, the news instantly went viral on social media, particularly 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. 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 such resignation letter that the AP was able to get, those who signed a resignation letter also signed non-disclosure agreements.
IMI responded with an additional statement a few hours after this item was published, claiming that such “non-disclosure agreements are not a technique to silencing people but are really employed in all business situations.”
Additionally, it stated that “any meetings that would have taken place regarding the fuel story… would have been in accordance with HR standards to address any erroneous information that could undermine the credibility of the publication.”
Over seven days after the fact, IMI’s Chief Nart Bouran visited the newsroom for a gathering, where he proclaimed the disintegration of Al Roeya and declared the inevitable send off of the Arabic-language business outlet with CNN.
No less than 35 representatives lost their positions in a solitary day, those with information said. Others said handfuls more on top of that were excused, with severance pay.
IMI didn’t answer rehashed inquiries concerning the number of individuals it that terminated. Profiles on the expert systems administration site LinkedIn recommend exactly 90 individuals had been working at Al Roeya.
“This case [of Al Roeya] sounds an integral part of the overall harsh climate,” expressed Grothe from Opportunity House. “It makes a chilling difference.”