Saqr Ghobash stands up for media against attack from FNC

Chairman of National Media Council defends media outlets from accusations they employ too many foreigners and fail to represent Emirati culture.

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ABU DHABI // Saqr Ghobash, the Chairman of the National Media Council, yesterday defended media outlets from accusations they employ too many foreigners and fail to properly represent Emirati culture. Mr Ghobash, who is also Minister of Labour, said the council was not authorised to control the media, only to guide it. "Every media outlet seeks to retain its own method and character, and the council not only understands this but encourages it for the sake of diversity as long as that does not violate the law or be against the country's pillars and policies," he told an FNC session at which a report on the Government's media policies was discussed.

The minister added that the media council was "in no way a central authority that controls the media sector". He was responding to criticism by several FNC members that some unnamed sections of the media fail to uphold national values, reinforce the national identity, or discuss things that matter to Emiratis. They called for the media council to regulate the media more tightly. The FNC report found that the media council's strategic plan did not take into account issues such as the dominance of foreign media products. It claimed that between 70 and 80 per cent of information produced by media outlets last year was "irrelevant" to the UAE.

Dr Amal al Qubaisi, an FNC member from Abu Dhabi, criticised the media council for failing to Emiratise the sector. She said the strategic plan should be re-evaluated to better take into account issues such as national identity, the population imbalance and Emiratisation. The minister said the Emiratisation of the media was part of the government's overall policy. "This issue requires constant efforts by several authorities, and other factors such as education, training and awareness, as well as financial and moral incentives in order to attract nationals in this field," he said. "We should not forget that working in the field of media also requires talent, will and skills in order for a person to be successful and continue in this field."

Maysa Rashid Ghadir, an FNC member from Dubai, said non-Arabic media outlets often did not follow the same rules as the Arabic media. They run articles that are detrimental to national values and interests, or are not relevant to the UAE, she said. Another member, Khalifa bin Howaiden, criticised the absence of a federal television channel, despite the country having 13 local government channels. Although the UAE hosts 22 per cent of the Middle East's television channels, the media council had failed to oblige them to properly portray Emirati culture, the members claimed.