Journalism 101

Claims by Anti-Slavery International about the young camel riders at the Sweihan Cultural Festival should have been checked by the papers that repeated them.

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There have been far too many examples of late where the western media has sniffed a story about the UAE and ran to the presses without doing their due diligence. A scandal sells, even if the facts have to be massaged to fit the headline. And now the human rights body Anti-Slavery International, based in London, claims that young boys were forced to race camels in this year's Sweihan Cultural Festival. Prominent papers in the British press have been all-too-quick to spill ink on the subject.

There is an unfortunate history of foreign boys formerly being forced to work as camel jockeys. In a public apology, the Government replaced the child jockeys with robots and banned the practice. The races today are not the same thing. Boys do race; in Emirati culture, boys have been racing camels for generations. The festival's rules stipulate appropriate safety measures, the boys' willing participation and - this is crucial - parental approval and attendance at the race. The human rights group should have verified these facts; journalists, by the very definition of their job, have a duty to do so.