Abu Dhabi: Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, told the Federal National CouncilTuesday policies and systems of the National Media Council, the UAE’s regulatory body, are being overhauled in line with “the rapidly changing new media tools.”

“What is required from the National Media Council today is much more than what it can do by its current system,” Shaikh Abdullah said.

Shaikh Abdullah added that the global financial crisis and the swift change in the Arab world revealed many weaknesses in the media content and messages for domestic and international consumption.

Despite challenges, the Media Council spares no effort to boost the presence of Emiratis in the media to foster the national identity, Shaikh Abdullah said. “The strategies, the policies and plans of the NMC are being overhauled to allow this vital body to face the rising challenges due to the digital revolution and rapid changes in the media especially in the sphere of the new media and social networking,” he explained.

“We expect that the Emirati workforce in the Media Council will be increased from 61 per cent last year to 71 per cent this year,” Shaikh Abdullah said, adding that our aspiration is to emiratise the entire media sector.

Shaikh Abdullah displayed anguish when he mentioned emiratisation figures in media outlets. “Emiratisation figures in media outlets are disappointing,” he remarked.

The minister said media outlet had no desire to recruit Emirati media professionals, especially blaming local English language newspapers.

The National Media Council came under fire from the House for its “weak role in [the] Emiratisation of the media, dominance of foreign media content and lack of plans to promote the [UAE’s] cultural identity.”

The NMC was also criticised for the lack of coordination between the media outlets and universities, lack of training programmes for journalists and broadcasters, and a failure by media outlets to address concerns of citizens.

The FNC also voiced concern over the UAE’s low ranking in the press freedom index. Ali Jasem, a member from Umm Al Quwain, said the UAE ranked 158th on the Press Freedom Index last year.

Shaikh Abdullah said he expected that the ranking will improve once the new media law is issued with an article that bans jailing journalists for exercising their duties.

Shaikh Abdullah rejected proposals to impose a quota for Emirati journalists and broadcasters similar to banking and insurance companies.

“The quota process turned out to be a fraud with Emiratis taking only administrative and not effective positions,” Shaikh Abdullah said.

Shaikh Abdullah said discussions in the FNC lacked a uniform stand on the issue of freedom of expression.

“Some members demand a higher ceiling of freedom and less control, while others call for censorship, which is confusing,” Shaikh Abdullah said.

Shaikh Abdullah reiterated that the NMC respected the editorial policies of all media outlets operating in the country and that it never intervened in their work or nature of their content.

“The country’s policy is to leave the executive work to the media outlets, whether owned by the local governments or the private sector, so that there will be no contradiction between [the NMC’s] work and theirs,” he added.

Shaikh Abdullah said media outlets are “our partners and they are wholeheartedly contributing to the UAE’s media strategies.

The UAE’s draft media law, which was approved by the FNC in 2009, will be revised, Shaikh Abdullah said.