Emirates Censors International New York Times Over Saadiyat Labor Report

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.

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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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