Media City opens with call for press freedom
The Gulf emirate of Dubai opened a hi-tech, multimillion-dollar Media City on Saturday amid calls for greater press freedom. But such freedom must abide by local law, said United Arab Emirates Information Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
"Greater transparency and greater openness are essential if the media is to be able to perform its role effectively," said the minister who has campaigned for press freedom in Gulf, where Islamic tradition turns information into a privilege rather than a right.
"We believe that this freedom (of the media) is essential. It is the life breath of any effective media," he said. However, the minister added: "The freedom in which we believe is responsible freedom in accordance with the law.
In the Emirates, as in the rest of the Gulf, self-censorship is the rule of practical journalism. A host of subjects such as ruling families, social mores, defense and security remain taboo.
"The UAE, like other societies, has a structure of laws and regulations that defines the rights and duties of its inhabitants. These provide a clear and unambiguous guide as to the nature of the freedom of individual human beings and also of the media," Sheikh Abdullah said.
Dubai's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, who jointly inaugurated the three six-floor buildings with the minister, said: "Freedom is integrity."
Some 900 people from 50 companies are due to start work in the city from March 1, said Mohammad Gergawi, director general of the media free zone authority.
Although full regulations for the zone are yet to be announced, they are to include a ban on local sponsorship, therefore making companies 100 percent foreign owned, and a 50-year tax break and a simplification of bureaucratic procedures.
A second phase of the 200-hectare (500-acre) site is due to start shortly and be completed within a year followed by a third phase starting in April and to be completed in June 2002.
Figures have not been released for the cost of the project, the latest in Dubai's multibillion-dollar bid to be the region's e-capital.
They include Dubai Internet City and Dubai Ideas Oasis, which along with media city have been trumpeted as the triangle of enterprises needed to establish the liberal emirate as the Middle East capital for information technology. — (AFP, Dubai)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)