RESEARCH BASED REFLECTIVE PAPER ON MEDIA & JOURNALISM IN THE UAE WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON LEGAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES
A detailed report on Media and Journalism with a thorough research of the contemporary and emerging media with respect to the Media ethics and morals in the UAE
Media originated with the advent of newspapers and magazines and later on broadened its perspective to radio, Television, cinema, internet, and so on. This broadening accordingly multiplied reach to mass audiences across nations.
Media has the capability to reach masses in no time. This inherent quality necessitates regulations owing to which Media law came into existence. The UAE also has a constitution of Laws governing Media and a code of ethics for the journalists.
This paper analyses on Media with the following considerations. Are the regulations of Media laws in the UAE in the right approach? Do the journalists in the UAE enjoy enough freedom? What is the level of interference of the governing bodies on the media? Are the journalists publishing ethical and authentic content that will not harm the society? What is the effect of the contemporary and emerging media have on the society?
Considering the unique cultural situation in the UAE, this study analyses the media laws and the journalistic code of ethics with the contemporary and the emerging media and to understand if Media laws have broadened and expanded with respect to the new media and its demands.
2. Media Ethics Vs Law
Media ethicsis the subdivision ofapplied ethicsdealing with the specific ethical principles and standards of media, including broadcast media, film, theatre, arts, print, and the internet. The field covers many varied and highly controversial topics, ranging fromwar journalism to Benetton advertising.
Media law can be defined as laws that regulate the activities of the Media.
Media ethics is a subject which deals with the perspective of a perfect media person who takes ownership of the information published by him without causing harm and sensation to the public. Sometimes what is legally correct may not be ethically appropriate. The media person is expected to do a lot of psychological analysis on the value system combined with social responsibility.
Media Law is a legal field that regulates the
- Entertainment law
- Freedom of information
- Information Technology
- Internet and on-line services
- Telecommunications (Wikipedia).
The SPJ Code of ethics is a statement of abiding principles which gives a clear picture on the journalistic practices. Although it is not a set of rules, it directs the journalists in their task of publishing, regardless of medium. This code makes sense as a whole only and it cannot be used in bits.
The SPJ code recommends the following:
- Seek Truth and Report It
- Minimize Harm
- Act Independently
- Be Accountable and Transparent (SPJ Code of Ethics, 2014).
3. Why media ethics matter?
Media has created a major impact on the social and political sectors. The reach of media and various forms of communication has generated a mass effect in the public and furthermore the effect it creates in each individual has varied with respect to multiple factors.
3.1. Social Impact
On a social level, media has brought about the greatest impact. The media publications have been shaped on the basis of different cultures, races, genders, religions and sexual orientations in the society. The perception of the two main elements, the entertainment and the news differ. The representations are valued at face value in entertainment sector. There are also cases of unfair stereotyping which causes a major social impact.
Unfair Beauty Standards is one such practice where the beautiful women are often in favorable roles, portrayed as successful always. These standards in media have an adverse effect on the psychology of the women. Failing to meet those standards or adopting those characteristics have even forced them to dejection and sometimes depression too.
Other practices are sexual orientation, religion, devastating mental and physical health of children and older generation, principles of extremist groups which can cause unnecessary sensations in the society.
3.2. Political Impact
On a political level, media is capable of influencing the society to a larger extent. Media can advocate for a particular political party. Construction of the news is another way in which the mass media can have an influence over the masses. The media people are bound to abide by the media laws. There are instances when the government or the ruling party enforces media to project only what they deem appropriate. Owing to its power to build public judgment, media influence can create or dissolve the government.
Attributed to the high levels of public impact, both in social and political grounds, ethical practice becomes inevitable in Media. As a matter of fact while dealing with the Media Laws, what is legal may not be ethical necessarily.
4. Is there any need to ‘regulate’ (media law) media?
With relevance to the UAE market an analysis on the contemporary and the emerging media will throw light on the significance of Media Ethics.
The process of convergence of Telecommunications and Broadcasting has been in the process of entirely changing the media globally. Convergence has brought together mobile telecommunication operators and the television broadcasters to use technologies like DVB-H facilitating people to watch television as well as internet content in the mobile.
Media has the dangerous effect of inducing fake ideas through advertisements. People are fascinated by media’s influence to buy harmful or substandard products. Sometimes, Media develops unnecessary sensation and distorts truth just to attract customers. Because of its power to build public judgment, the influence of media can create or dissolve a government. Some of the emerging media have no control over the content as the Media laws are not refined in detail. In a conservative unique society like that of the UAE, the content may not be as per the strictly adhered society norms and could create social impact. The information sharing in the social networking sites are bound to cause cyber crimes. The media pivots in bringing specifics of all major political circumstances, stands and other scenarios. This helps people to understand their rights and make better decisions. The impact of Media can also create agitation and political turnarounds(Arab Media Outlook 2007-2011).
The UAE requires a clear media law that provides absolute clarity protecting the journalists and at the same time defining boundaries to ensure the responsibility of the press. The other countries with established media freedom have these boundaries created over the years through the legal system.
The recently released guidelines set by Abu Dhabi Media Zone, a media-creation free zone anchored by the content-incubator TwoFour54 carries clear guidelines(Gulfnews.com, 2012).
Human Rights Watch has reported that a new law has been drafted to regulate the media which hampers freedom of expression and unduly interferes with the media’s freedom to report on sensitive subjects. The pending law also allows the government to decide the organizations that can operate in the country and also interfere in the selection of journalists. The law imposes unreasonable civil penalties that could wash out media outlets completely and subtly impose restrictions on the published content. It also enforces media organizations to pay an unspecified security deposit that set a powerful barrier for independent and small press organizations(Human Rights Watch, 2009).
5. Media and Journalism in the UAE
Code of ethics is based on the Following Principles…
- Accuracy in reporting
- Appropriate acknowledgement of sources
- Avoiding discrimination
- Avoiding sensationalism
- Avoiding the fanning of public feeling
- Eliminating and/or minimizing harm (especially to children)
- Fairness to all
- Freedom and integrity
- Innocence until proven guilty
- Professionalism, especially in relation to plagiarism
- Refusing to accept bribes and advantage
- Respect for public feeling
- Respect for the truth
- Respecting personal privacy
- Rightful acquisition of information
- Upholding human rights
Understanding this code of ethics in reality, it offers a minimal safety for the journalists. A revised media law in the UAE is the need of the hour. The lack of effective protections for journalists has brought down the ranking of freedom in the UAE to the last and the scholars in media call out for revision.
Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor at UAE University, after a thorough study has brought this issue to the attention of Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chairman of the UAE’s National Media Council and has suggested immediate amendments (Gulfnews.com, 2012).
6. Media law and Ethics in the UAE
The press freedom rankings of UAE is 112. The features like pervasive self-censorship and Internet blocking policy have pushed the country to the “not free” category. The freedom enjoyed by the journalists operating in other countries is far more compared to the journalists in the UAE making most of the media zones to set up regional centres out of the United Arab Emirates.
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The UAE Constitution does not encourage freedom of expression. Article 30 states that “Freedom of opinion and expressing it verbally, in writing or by other means of expression shall be guaranteed within the limits of law” (Dr. Matt J. Duffy 2013). The penal code as well as the media law pose numerous restrictions on journalism and freedom of speech. Also, the Constitution specifically guarantees personal freedom in religious worship, movement and having associations. The UAE constitution contains points that define personal freedom but does not outline regulations for the society as a whole (Dr. Matt J. Duffy 2013).
The UAE penal code Article 378 strictly prohibits defamation against the royal family and has rights to criminalize journalists for publicizing secrets of royal family life. Publicly insulting the UAE’s rulers is a crime according to Articles 176 and 8 of the UAE penal code. Article 312 of Federal Law No. 3 of the 1987 Penal Code of the UAE has blasphemy laws that protect Islam and other religions from defamation (Dr. Matt J. Duffy 2013). Abusing any form of sacred and Islamic rites or blaspheming any of the divine religions is considered a crime and penalties are chargeable for these crimes (Dr. Matt J. Duffy 2013).
The technological developments have brought into life to contemporary and emerging media with their own positive and negative effects on the society as well as the people in the media. Although there have been revisions in the Media law in the UAE since the time it was formulated owing to globalization, the media laws lack clarity. The fact is that it requires several amendments in comparison with the Media Laws of the global counterparts. When it comes to freedom although it looks like the freedom is highly restricted.
Media contributes to a transformation in the culture, fashion and social values of the masses influencing lifestyles of communities and culture of nations. Media transforms the attitudes and beliefs of the people and is responsible for influencing our daily activities. Media has a significant role in refining the society by opening views against racism, gender bias, poverty, and spreading awareness about the need for world peace.
Media laws have been an ambiguity for the journalists. The UAE Constitution does not guarantee freedom of expression. Much of their provisions tell journalists what they can’t do rather than offering protections for their actions. In a nutshell, code of ethics in reality it offers a minimal safety for the journalists. The law imposes enormous civil penalties that could completely wipe out media outlets and silence disagreeing voices found to violate the huge but subtle constraints on content. Media organizations found to have defamed or slandered senior government officials or members of the royal family are charged penalties.
The media organizations have to bring about constructive changes within the organization and communicate clarity both in media laws and ethics to its personnel to have a positive influence on the society. The Media Laws also have to be refined to give sufficient freedom to the media to serve better.
Media organizations, governing bodies, media laws, media ethics, skilled human resources together have to work together to revise the media laws as and when new media emerge. This helps in bringing out the authentic information to the public without creating unnecessary sensations. Media ought to be regulated failing which the society will face unnecessary complications in politics, culture, values, beliefs etc., The public should also abide by the laws when delivering opinions and expressions in social media to develop a healthy society. UAE women taking up lead positions in Media organizations can also contribute to peace and upliftment of the society. In short, publishing authentic content regulated by media ethics and laws should be the goal of the media.
The UAE Constitution does not empower Media and Journalism to publish all facts & truth. Practical constraints are plenty in this field. The journalists as well as the media organizations are charged huge penalties & the governing authorities have all rights to deem content as inappropriate or to block the websites. These conditions prevailing could suppress the truth and actual facts may be darkened or completely blocked by the media.
The development of the country largely depends on the people and their potential to acquaint the economical developments, the political circumstances, the technological evolutions, the business standards, the social interactions, the international affairs etc., the main source of information being Media, the freedom of media plays a significant role in the development of the country. Moreover, the fortified opinion of the scholars is to revise Media laws and to enhance the freedom.
Refining the media laws and the ethics code by giving more clarity to the ambiguities will give more scope for the journalists by amplifying their freedom and to do more justice in their work. Subsequently, the fine borders have to be defined meticulously to avoid misuse of freedom resulting in unnecessary sensations in the country. Taking into consideration the culture, religion, people etc., the Media laws and the media ethics code have to be conjointly revised for constructive changes in the country.
10. References / Bibliography.
“Arab Media Outlook 2007-2011”.
“Arab Media Outlook 2008-2012”.
“Arab Media Outlook 2011-2017”.
Matt J. Duffy , Special to Gulf News. March 23, 2012, “Revised media law for the UAE”
Human Rights Watch, April 13 , 2009 ,”UAE: Media Law Undermines Free Expression” http://www.hrw.org/news/2009/04/13/uae-media-law-undermines-free-expression
Matt. J. Duffy 2013 “Media laws and regulations of the GCC countries” – http://www.dc4mf.org/sites/default/files/gcc_media_law_en_0.pdf
Andrew Seaman, Monica Guzman, September6,2014, “SPJ Code of Ethics”, http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp
Geoff Pound, October 18,2007 “ UAE & the Journalistic Ethics”, http://experiencingtheemirates.blogspot.in/2007/10/uae-and-9journalistic-ethics.html
“Wikipedia ”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_ethics
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