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Posts Tagged ‘UAE

New media questions in the UAE

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As reported in today’s WSJ, the United Arab Emirates is passing a new media law which threatens fines against journalists publishing information that “harms the economy.” Fake Plastic Souks has a good roundup of local media reaction, and points out that the new law seems to omit any reference to blogging, Twittering, YouTube, or any other online channel. But one doesn’t have to be a committed cynic to think that the UAE is likely to adopt a broad interpretation of “media,” given the precedent recently set in South Korea.

In fact, the parallel to South Korea might be more pronounced than a first glance would suggest. “Minerva” – offline, Park Dae Sung – was arrested for blogging about government moves to keep the won from falling against the dollar. As The National noted in December, the UAE’s Central Bank has kept interest rates higher than in the U.S. to contain inflation, despite a dollar peg, thanks to forward contracts betting on a devaluation of the dirham in 2009. 

There’s a dilemma at work here. The crisis in the capital markets has a great deal to do with transparency and a lack of reliable information, particularly when it comes to asset quality and balance sheets. But the sheer quantity of information (which by definition will include misinformation and speculation), as well as the speed and ease by which it can be produced, may risk exacerbating the situation. Such would seem to be the fear of policy-makers, at least.

The danger, of course, is that “the economy” becomes the new excuse for worldwide Internet regulation (after “terrorism” and “pornography”)…a danger that’ll become depressingly real as 2009 progresses.

p.s. – see The Emirates Economist for a blog dedicated to economic analysis of the Gulf states

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Written by Mark

January 23, 2009 at 3:48 am

Posted in Business & Economy

Tagged with ,