Abu Dhabi: Ebrahim Al Abed, Director-General of the National Media Council (NMC), said the NMC believes that the UAE has an advanced press system in the region, and that the policies formulated by the NMC draw heavily on programming press freedom in the UAE at local and international levels.
Excerpts of the interview:
Gulf News: How do you evaluate the performance of the UAE press in 2010?
EBRAHIM AL ABED: We believe that the UAE has one of the most technologically and institutionally advanced press systems in the region. Since its establishment in 2006, the NMC has been keen on building up solid relations with the local press through meetings to discuss mutual concerns and problems. So, far this working relationship has proven to be most effective in facilitating local media contribution to national development.
I think the effectiveness of the UAE's commitment to freedom of the press has been shown over the last year by the way in which the local media has continued to deal with a wide variety of complex and potentially controversial issues, without intervention by the courts or other authorities. As always, the way in which the media exercise the freedom that they have is largely up to them — the National Media Council cannot demand that they do so.
How does the NMC see the UAE media policy?
The NMC is the government body entrusted with formulating media policies at local and international levels. For us, this policy draws heavily on promoting press freedom and responsibility. We believe you cannot be absolutely free and irresponsible. Freedom and responsibility go together to secure the interests of the state, society, and media institutions.
The Federal National Council has previously discussed with the NMC issues related to the role of the NMC in promoting Emiratisation in the media sector and in promoting wider coverage of local issues. How do you view such discussions?
We welcome the role played by the FNC in discussing with government bodies, like the NMC, the way in which they carry out their work and the comments from FNC members are always of great value. Two or so years ago, the FNC asked the NMC to outline its approach towards the issue of Emiratisation, which it did.
The NMC is, of course, a regulatory body, not an executive body, and it cannot, therefore, impose any rules or restrictions with regards to Emiratisation on the local media.
It can, however, advise and facilitate on the issue. This is being done through the formation of a special committee for Emiratisation in the media sector which draws policies and plans to enhance recruitment of Emiratis in the media organisations and also to organise training programmes with the help of well established international media organisation. This process has already started.
The NMC has already succeeded in engaging UAE Universities in this programme. I can say [that] Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Public Works and Chairman of the National Media Council, puts this issue as top priority on the agenda of NMC.
At the end of the day, it is the media organisations themselves, however, who must decide how to tackle the issue of Emiratisation, although the NMC is always ready to assist, where it is able to do so.
In terms of promoting a wider coverage of local issues, including aspects relating to cultural heritage and cultural identity in the local media, it is, again, a matter for the media to determine.
I should note that the general policy of the state is that the UAE is, and should remain, open to the flow of information from elsewhere in the world. The media institutions themselves decide how much local content they carry, although I would note that all media do carry a substantial amount of information that is related directly to the UAE.
The Arabic language media, in particular, devote considerable attention to local culture, poetry, history and so on.