Dubai: Every day, okay not every day, but at least five times a week, a man rings me up from an unknown number (VOIP actually) and threatens me in broken English. “You #$@&%*! , just wait. I finish u soon,” he said in his last call.
What I have done to antagonise him I don’t know nor have I cared to ask. I have tried to hazard a guess though, but that hasn’t helped either.
Over the years XPRESS has rubbed so many people the wrong way (or is the right way?) I have lost count.
As a multicultural community newspaper that you could truly call your own we monitored the pulse of the city and reported on issues that impacted you directly. Readers were at the heart of everything we did.”
- Mazhar Farooqui, editor, XPRESS
Job scamsters, forex fraudsters, bootlegging syndicate, the charlatan who ran a bogus airline in Ras Al Khaimah, the men behind the IT firm which sold over 60,000 fake degrees in the UAE, animal poachers, the dodgy developer who floated a multi-million project that’s still not approved, the masterminds of the brazen trading scams, Queen of con Gill Wallace Hope, serial swindler Russell King, or the men we smoked out in a sting operation after they sold an ISO 9001:2015 certificate to our non-existent company for just Dh4,000.
The mysterious caller could be any of them.
Looking back, I can proudly say that XPRESS not only laid the groundwork for cutting edge investigative reporting in this part of the world, it also constantly pushed the boundaries of journalism.
Last September we published the initials of eight suspect firms and said they were preparing to run away after duping traders. True to our words, within two months each of them vanished. The traders we managed to alert later sent a thank you note.
Our brand of uncompromising journalism won us a string of top local and international awards. An anonymous reader even sent me a T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘The King of Sting’. But the accolades didn’t come easy.
For months on end we remained mired in lawsuits and police complaints. There were times when my mornings were spent in court and the afternoons in police stations.
Once I even spent a night in a Sharjah police lock-up because I was wanted for questioning in a defamation case I wasn’t aware of.
But then XPRESS wasn’t just about scam busting. In fact our biggest strength was our unabashed and relentless local coverage.
At times we were the cheerleader, at others guardian and watchdog.
As a multicultural community newspaper that you could truly call your own, we monitored the pulse of the city and reported on issues that impacted you directly.
Readers were at the heart of everything we did.
Whether it was a patient saddled with unpaid hospital bills, student struggling to pay school fees or a tenant facing an issue with services, we were the go-to newspaper for just about anybody with a problem.
People sought us out in the hope that their concerns would get addressed. And they were.
XPRESS impacted hundreds of lives. An ailing infant received over Dh250,000 for his treatment, a maid’s daughter got a seat in a top university for free and two mums reunited with their kids whom they had lost hope of ever seeing again. The list is long.
These stories, told in a distinct style, made XPRESS the most engaging and endearing read in the country.
Despite being a weekly we came up with breaking news and smashing reports every few issues. Barely two hours before our print deadline a plane made an emergency landing in Dubai and caught fire. Yet we managed to get not just the full story but also pictures and eyewitness accounts. We were the first to report on the mandatory health insurance policy in Dubai and the only local newspaper to get an interview with the visiting Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
We also hit the headlines when a gang rape victim and a man whose sperm was stolen picked us to share their stories.
As someone who launched XPRESS and watched it grow, the pain of losing it is intense. But I am happy that we made a difference while we could.