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Opening Speeches Call for Free Press at DMC

(This story was published in the February 2001 issue of Digital Studio magazine and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the editors. For background on Dubai Media City, please see "The Dubai Digital Broadcasting Miracle," by Abdallah Schleifer, in our last issue.)

An evening dominated by a spectacular firework display marked the official opening of Dubai Media City.

The city's three office blocks, which are already virtually sold out, according to DMC officials, now stand as a symbol for free media in Dubai. "We want Dubai Media City to be the arena for free-thinking talent," said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defense, in his opening address.

Echoing that call for openness was Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Information and Culture. His message on cutting the media free was unequivocal.

"When I talk about media freedom, I do not mean it as an ambiguous and misleading phrase," he said. A key role for Dubai Media City will be the development of indigenous talent within the Arab world. The Ministry of Information and Culture is establishing a special Media Institute in the city designed to encourage UAE nationals to move into the media industry.

At the same time, Sheikh Abdullah asserted that there would be no absolute requirement for local media houses to take quotas of national employees. "We shall continue to encourage the recruitment of more UAE citizens into all parts of the media industry. However, I should stress that the prime consideration for the recruitment of an individual for a position in the media should be that of his or her qualifications," he explained.

UAE nationals assured of a job in Dubai Media City are those working at Emirates Media Corporation (EMC), for which Sheikh Abdullah is chairman. The company has been granted land at DMC to develop into areas including print, broadcasting and television.

With the three buildings of Dubai Media City already full, work is already planned to start of phase two of the project at the end of the month. Over 300,000 square feet of space will be added to the city, said Mohammed Al Gergawi, director general of Dubai Technology, E-commerce and Media Free Zone Authority, the management company of both Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City.

About Abdallah Schleifer

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S. Abdallah Schleifer is editor-at-large of  Arab Media & Society. He is the former director of the Adham Center and now professor emeritus in journalism and mass communication at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Prior to joining the AUC faculty, Schleifer served as NBC News Cairo Bureau Chief and Middle East producer/reporter based in Beirut, and has covered the Middle East for American and Arab media for over 20 years. Schleifer is honorary and former chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Cairo.

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