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Dubai paper suspended for 20 days 3, July 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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A state controlled Dubai newspaper Al Emirate Al Youm has been ordered to suspend publication for 20 days by an Abu Dhabi court. The paper under the auspices of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum published a front-page article back in 2006 suggesting that stables owned by the royal family of Abu Dhabi, the Al Nayhan, engaged in horse doping. The court in Abu Dhabi upheld the defamation case put by members of the Al Nayhan family and imposed the harsh punishment which included a 20,000 Dirham ($5400) fine for the editor as well as the suspension of the whole paper for 20 days.

In terms of background it is perhaps worth noting that Sheikh Mohammed the ruler of Dubai was investigated by equestrian authorities for horse doping. Although he denied knowledge of this he accepted full responsibility. It could be suggested, therefore, that this article in one of his controlled papers was some kind of attempt to smear the rival rulers of Abu Dhabi with similar accusations. Horse racing along with falconry is an important aspect of the social construction of legitimacy and society in the Emirates. Success in such a regal sport, with all the connotations of power that come with it, are clearly important in the Emirates. In the same way, cheating at this gentleman’s sport could severely tarnish the reputation of those involved.

It is important to be aware of the fierce rivalry between the Al Nayhans and the Al Maktoums and the two cities. Whilst Abu Dhabi with its oil and gas has always had the upper-hand in the relationship, Dubai has often out-shined its neighbour in, for example, construction of the world’s most luxurious and tallest hotel, the tallest building in the world and by underwriting the growth of Emirates as a world-spanning airline. Abu Dhabi, by contrast, whilst being intrinsically far richer and more powerful, has taken a slightly different tack by seeking to become something of a cultural hub to Dubai’s brash luxo-tourism centre. They signed agreements for the first ever Louvre museum and Sorbonne University outside of Paris to be opened, for the construction of a Guggenheim gallery and branches of prestigious institutions such as New York University. This rivalry has been complicated recently by the financial collapse and Dubai’s severe troubles with the failure of its property model. This has increased their reliance on Abu Dhabi. There have been reports suggesting that Abu Dhabi, in return for bailing out Dubai and helping them more generally, wanted the control of Emirates airline, one of Dubai’s flagship projects.

This smear against the rulers of Abu Dhabi is, however, nothing compared to the recently released torture video showing one of the half-brothers of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi torturing an Afghan grain dealer for 40 minutes. This revelation, and the fact that the Emirate authorities knew about this for months but did nothing about it whatsoever, has, alongside migrant worker issues, apparently jeopardised many of their aforementioned flagship projects which were to be built on Saadiyat Island.

Hat tip: UAE Community Blog

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