Whoever thought the Gulf would turn into a media hub? But that's the way it is — and not just because of the Iraq war. With new publications coming on stream funded by oil money, there is already talk of a newspaper war.
Martin Newland, former editor of the UK's Daily Telegraph, is launching Abu Dhabi's first English newspaper next month with some 200 journalists, many of them from Britain, South Africa, Australia, Canada and the US.
The newspaper, funded by the state-owned Abu Dhabi Media Company, will be the United Arab Emirates' biggest newsgathering operation trying to emulate quality British and American newspapers.
It is already getting international publicity with a top editor like Newland hiring staff from publications such as the Daily Telegraph, Guardian and the New Yorker.
It will be available in limited numbers in cities such as London and Washington to "explain to the world what the emerging UAE is", Newland told ArabianBusiness.com.
I can’t lie and say I am spending lots and lots of money in order to fight a press freedom battle. That is not the job. The job is first and foremost to launch a quality newspaper.
But he isn't looking to launch a newspaper war in the Gulf with Dubai-based titles such as Gulf News, Khaleej Times and Emirates Business 24/7, he said:
I don’t want to start a newspaper war. I think there is room for all of us in this market, it's growing at such as rate. I would be surprised if we take revenue and readers away from the competition.
The newspaper, whose name is yet to be announced, will be a broadsheet with over 80 pages of news, business, arts and culture, and sport — and a 70/30 split between editorial and advertising.
Newland said the newspaper would be about the same size as Canada's National Post which he helped to launch as deputy editor.
Asked how the newspaper would cover stories sensitive to the government, such as labour strikes, Newland said he would not know until the paper launched, but added:
Stories that are in the public domain like things such as labour strikes have to be reported. Otherwise your credibility suffers.
The Abu Dhabi Media Company, etablished in 2007 as a public joint stock company, also owns and operates Abu Dhabi Television, Abu Dhabi Sports Channel, Emirates Television Channel and Abu Dhabi Radio.
Reporters Without Frontiers says in its 2008 annual report:
The Gulf states are a pillar of US policy in the Middle East and in the present decade have moved towards political and economic liberalisation. The changes include the media, which is less restricted than before, but things have a long way to go…
The Gulf states’ media employ very many foreigners, mostly from Arab countries and southern Asia, as in other parts of the society. In Qatar, they have to be sponsored by a local institution or by the information ministry and be accredited with the government’s Foreign Information Agency. To leave the country, they have to have an exit visa and permission from their sponsor. The formalities are far fewer in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where journalists based in Dubai’s Media City have more facilities. Important media outlets, such as the BBC, CNN and the French news agency Agence France-Presse, have opened regional offices there.