Mobile  |  About us  |  Photos  |  Videos  |  Subscriptions  |  RSS Feeds  |  Today's Paper  |  Classifieds  |  Contact Us
The Daily Star
FRIDAY, 25 APR 2014
08:06 AM Beirut time
Weather    
Beirut
22 °C
Blom Index
BLOM
1,214.01down
Middle East
Follow this story Print RSS Feed ePaper share this
Media professor thrown out of UAE after calling for reform
A+ A-

BEIRUT: Thrown out of the UAE this summer with no explanation, journalism professor Matt Duffy believes his criticism of the country’s media laws, vocal support for free speech and authorities’ increasing fears of Arab Spring contagion may have been behind the move. His wife, Ann Duffy, who worked in educational policy for the Abu Dhabi Education Council, had already had her contract terminated, also with no explanation provided, in June.

“When you live in a country like the UAE, and I think probably most Gulf countries, these kinds of stories are pretty common. You know people suddenly being dismissed with no explanation, so we were always kind of aware that something like that could happen. But we were surprised,” Duffy said in a Skype interview with The Daily Star.

Duffy, who had taken a position as assistant professor of communications at Zayed University in 2010, has been told that both the university provost and Higher Education Minister Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak had tried unsuccessfully to appeal the directive to have his contract terminated, and that the order had originated from “outside the organization.”

A columnist for Gulf News, Duffy had called for a revamp of the UAE’s media laws and for journalists to act ethically, and cautioned against Bahrain’s government regulating social media.

However he had grown increasingly cautious since his arrival in the UAE, especially, he says, after the arrest of the UAE Five on charges of insulting the president, vice president and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The activists, who were arrested in April 2011 but later released after a presidential pardon repealed their sentence, were accused by state media of being religious extremists and Iranian spies.

“Those guys were ... secular, one of them was an academic, he had taught at the Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi, and they were democracy advocates, they really were just advocating a change in the way the government worked: They wanted more voting, more representation, which is actually what the UAE constitution calls for. It calls for an eventual shift to democracy,” Duffy said.

Whereas he had been initially critical of the local Arabic media coverage of the UAE Five trial, after the arrest of more people, also labeled Islamists, Duffy began to self censor.

“I toned down my commentary as it was whispered to me that this was just an area you don’t want to get involved in,” he said.

“I thought there was no sense being too provocative ... So I might once in a while tweet something about the local coverage of these Islamist arrests, but I didn’t go into any kind of detail.”

Constantly trying to navigate the security services’ red lines on the limits of what constituted unacceptable topics for debate, Duffy said this ambiguity could be seen as a deliberate policy by the country’s security services.

“If you’re ambiguous it really makes people very cautious. And if self-censorship is what you’re aiming for, then ambiguity is really going to help with that.”

Duffy and his family have now returned home to Atlanta, Georgia, in the U.S., where he is continuing to write a book about media laws in the UAE.

“There is currently no book which states what the law is in the UAE. And the reason there isn’t [a book] is because no academic has felt secure enough to write that book,” Duffy said.

As with media laws across the region, those in the UAE have many deficiencies, he added.

“They provide few, if any, protections for journalists to practice journalism. Instead they provide prohibitions, directives, things that journalists cannot do. So a typical media law in the UAE is that journalists may not damage the nation’s image.”

This sort of law, the former professor added, is “an incredibly broad directive and really it could squelch 85 percent of good journalism.”

Whereas when he arrived in the country with his family in 2010, Duffy felt it to be progressive in its approach to media freedoms, since the start of the Arab Spring in early 2011 he believes the country is heading backward.

“The Arab Spring really changed everything,” he said.

Countries such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, which have already experienced uprisings, are opening up to varying degrees, he says, but Duffy adds: “I see worrying signs in Jordan and certainly Oman, and Saudi Arabia has gone backward.”

“I think that at the end of the day it sort of depends on how you choose to see the world.”

“Do you trust that technology is going to lead to improvements and that more communication is better and expression is good or do you see it as an unstable force?”

Those not yet affected by widespread protests are fearful of revolutionary contagion, he said.

“They see all of this unrest in all of these countries and they are very worried and what they are aiming at are agitators, people they think would agitate the population and call for any sort of change.

“And I think that I represented a source of potential agitation,” he added.

“At the end of the day, journalism is agitation. You are calling up issues, pointing out issues that perhaps need to be solved.

“I can kind of understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t agree with it. I think that good journalism helps societies by pointing out problems that need to be solved and ways that they can be solved.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 02, 2012, on page 9.
Home Middle East
 
     
 
United Arab Emirates
Advertisement
Comments  

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
More from
Olivia Alabaster
 
 
Targeting of doctors and hospitals leading to medical crisis
 
 
From martyrs to victims: Counting Syria’s dead
 
 
Fresh round of chemical attack investigations
 
 
From Gunner to gunner? Former Arsenal player thought to be fighting with ISIS
 
 
Who are the ‘media activists’ covering the war?
Advertisement


Baabda 2014
Advertisement
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Linked In Follow us on Google+ Subscribe to our Live Feed
Multimedia
Images  
Pictures of the day
A selection of images from around the world- Thursday April 24, 2014
View all view all
Advertisement
Rami G. Khouri
Rami G. Khouri
Israel shows Zionism’s true colors
Michael Young
Michael Young
For Christians, blessed are the dividers
David Ignatius
David Ignatius
An Iran deal is close, but we’re not there yet
View all view all
Advertisement
cartoon
 
Click to View Articles
 
 
News
Business
Opinion
Sports
Culture
Technology
Entertainment
Privacy Policy | Anti-Spamming Policy | Disclaimer | Copyright Notice
© 2014 The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved - Designed and Developed By IDS