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Emirates Censors International New York Times Over Saadiyat Labor Report

by Mostafa Heddaya on May 20, 2014

Now you see it, now you don't. (Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Our representation of the “missing” edition of the International New York Times. (Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

The International New York Times publishing partner in the United Arab Emirates has declined to print the May 20 edition of the paper over the front-page story on labor abuses on the country’s Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. An email to the country’s subscribers stated that the Khaleej Times, a paper published by a partially state-owned company responsible for the local circulation the International New York Times, found the labor investigation “too sensitive for local printing,” according to a screenshot of the letter posted on Twitter by a co-author of the original article, Ariel Kaminer.

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 1.27.52 PM

Khaleej Times is published by Galadari Printing and Publishing Co. LLC, a subsidiary of the Galadari Brothers Group, a family-owned conglomerate in which the government of Dubai took a 30% stake in 2006. This transaction allegedly occurred under hostile circumstances related to that paper’s editorial independence, Dow Jones reported. On its website, Galadari Printing and Publishing notes that it “under license prints and distributes the International New York Times and other regional language titles in the UAE.”

In their October 2006 article for the Dow Jones newswire, reporters Simeon Kerr and Sarmad Khan cited unnamed sources on the circumstances of the Dubai government’s stake in Galadari Group, writing that the company was acquired by royal decree in exchange for Galadari debt held by the state.

“[T]he government stake will effectively sideline [editor-in-chief Mohammed Abdulrahim Galadari's] decision-making power in the companies, including at the newspaper, which runs under the strapline ‘The Truth Must Be Told,'” Kerr reported, citing anonymous sources. He continued: “The observers say that the editorial stance and quality of the daily, one of the few local newspapers to write critical articles on Dubai, raised government hackles.” The decree, issued by Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, also dissolved the parent company’s board of directors, replacing two of the three positions with his own appointees.

In other words, the International New York Times is printed by a company owned in part by the Emirati government, an ownership stake which was itself acquired under circumstances antithetical to basic journalistic principles. And so the misfortune comes full circle: an article denouncing the inhumane franchising of a high-profile American university (a project underwritten by Mubadala, a state-owned private equity firm) is pulled from circulation by another local franchise, one in which the same state has a significant ownership interest.

The online version of the International New York Times, which replaced the International Herald Tribune in October 2013, will still carry the story. INYT president Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, the author of today’s letter to subscribers, visited the offices of Khaleej Times/Galadari in October 2013, on the occasion of the INYT‘s launch there. “Print, he pointed out, has a ‘serendipity’ to it that no amount of digital interface could match,” the Khaleej Times wrote of his comments.

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  • http://rupertbu.blogspot.com/ Rupert Neil Bumfrey

    Oh dear western media, you think it all lined up so neatly, yet glaring factual errors, due to a lack of knowledge.

    UAE is made up of seven Emirates, each with their own Emir and laws.

    Centralised federal government comes from Abu Dhabi, the oil rich Emirate.

    Mubadala is an Abu Dhabi entity, a sovereign wealth fund.

    Dubai is its own Emirate, and even though it was insolvent in 2009, on paper it still is, and received a bail out of $20billion from Abu Dhabi through 2009, yet it has its own laws, courts, regulations etc.

    See where the errors lie, even though more are at a micro level, I know pedantic, but on such slight disinformation are PR battles won :-(

    • M. Heddaya

      I’m sorry, what’s the actual factual error? Your objection sounds like a quibble of omission: that I didn’t explain the governmental structure of the UAE. The blanket descriptor ‘state-owned’ is not inaccurate, as the UAE is the sovereign state, nor does it imply what you are suggesting it does.

      Also, to be more technical, Mubadala is a private equity subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), which is the sovereign wealth fund.

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