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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ABUDHABI1482
2003-03-29 11:43:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Abu Dhabi
Cable title:  

UAE STATE-OWNED MEDIA'S PORTRAYAL OF THE WAR

Tags:   PREL  OPRC  OIIP  KPAO  KWWW  TC 
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Diana T Fritz  05/24/2007 04:42:27 PM  From  DB/Inbox:  Search Results

Cable 
Text:                                                                      
                                                                           
      
CONFIDENTIAL

SIPDIS
TELEGRAM                                           March 29, 2003


To:       No Action Addressee                                    

Action:   Unknown                                                

From:     AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI (ABU DHABI 1482 - UNKNOWN)         

TAGS:     PREL, OPRC, OIIP, KPAO, KWWW                           

Captions: None                                                   

Subject:  UAE STATE-OWNED MEDIA'S PORTRAYAL OF THE WAR           

Ref:      None                                                   
_________________________________________________________________
C O N F I D E N T I A L        ABU DHABI 01482

SIPDIS
CXABU:
    ACTION: POL 
    INFO:   DCM P/M ECON RSO AMB 

DISSEMINATION: POL
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: AMB:MMWAHBA
DRAFTED: PAO:KVANDEVATE
CLEARED: POL:STW

VZCZCADI730
OO RUEHC RUCNRAQ RUEKJCS RUCAACC RHEHNSC
DE RUEHAD #1482/01 0881143
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 291143Z MAR 03
FM AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9118
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUCAACC/USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABU DHABI 001482 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR IRAQ PD TASK FORCE, NEA/ARP AND NEA/PPD
NSC FOR MDUNNE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/29/08
TAGS: PREL OPRC OIIP KPAO KWWW TC
SUBJECT: UAE STATE-OWNED MEDIA'S PORTRAYAL OF THE WAR

REF: STATE 81604

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABU DHABI 001482

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR IRAQ PD TASK FORCE, NEA/ARP AND NEA/PPD
NSC FOR MDUNNE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/29/08
TAGS: PREL OPRC OIIP KPAO KWWW TC
SUBJECT: UAE STATE-OWNED MEDIA'S PORTRAYAL OF THE WAR

REF: STATE 81604


1. (U) This cable is classified by Ambassador
Marcelle Wahba for Reasons 1.5(B) and (D).


2. (C) SUMMARY: War coverage dominates most UAE
print and electronic media, whether state-owned or
private. Because of the federal structure of the UAE,
virtually all state-owned media are owned by the
governments of the individual emirates, not by the UAE
federal government. On balance so far, UAE state-
owned media have sought to strike a balance between
the anti-war sentiments of the population and the
danger of losing their audience and market share.
While they have occasionally crossed the line of what
is deemed acceptable by U.S. standards, there is not a
pattern of incitement. The star to date has been Abu
Dhabi Television, which has stolen the show from Al-
Jazeera in war coverage, and which is making a major
effort to counter the more strident tone of other UAE
media. The other state-owned media outlets are far
less influential. END SUMMARY.

--------------
Ownership
--------------


3. (C) Except for the Emirates News Agency, which
reports to the federal Ministry of Information, state-
owned media organizations in the UAE are owned by
individual emirates, the leadership of which loosely
determines their editorial direction and tone of
reporting. State-owned media outlets are:

-- Federal: Emirates News Agency (WAM), the
government wire service, which provides coverage of
local and government news to all media outlets in the
UAE. WAM is closely controlled by the Ministry of
Information and its head Ibrahim Al-Abed reports
direct to the Minister. It controls indirectly,
through its content and other mechanisms, the tone of
reporting in UAE media, even privately owned ones.

-- Abu Dhabi Emirate: Emirates Media Incorporated
(EMI), majority-owned by the government of Abu Dhabi
Emirate; comprising Abu Dhabi Television (with two

channels), Abu Dhabi Radio, Al-Ittihad Arabic-language
daily, and several magazines. EMI comes under the
direction of the Ministry of Information, which is
headed by Shaykh Abdulla Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, UAE
Minister of Information and Culture and son of UAE
President Shaykh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan.

-- Dubai Emirate: Dubai Information Department, a
part of the government of Dubai Emirate, oversees
Dubai Radio and Television (four channels) and Al-
Bayan Arabic-language daily.

-- Sharjah Emirate: Sharjah Television (one satellite
channel) and Radio are owned by the government of
Sharjah Emirate.

-------------- --------------
Abu Dhabi TV Moves Aggressively to Counter Al-Jazeera
-------------- --------------


4. (C) Of all these outlets, by far the most
influential is Abu Dhabi Television (ADTV). From long
before the outbreak of hostilities, ADTV sought to
position itself in the forefront, aggressively seeking
out cooperative arrangements with other media outlets
to share footage and equipment, and requesting from
the USG and UK that its reporters be embedded with
front-line units to get accurate coverage. Since the
war began, MinInfo Shaykh Abdulla Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan
has taken a lead role in pushing the station to the
forefront of war coverage and in seeking to use it to
counter the negative and distorted coverage purveyed
by Al-Jazeera. He monitors news coverage around the
clock, contacting the U.S. Ambassador when ADTV's
reporters are not getting needed access or footage,
and emphasizing the importance he and the UAEG place
on achieving moderate balanced coverage. The results
have been excellent; ADTV has gained audience
throughout the region at the expense of Al-Jazeera;
its feed is being carried by news outlets worldwide,
and its reporting from Baghdad is essential now that
CNN is no longer there.

--------------
Competition is Stiff
--------------


5. (C) Although ADTV has, according to many of our
contacts, moved up into a lead position, deft
maneuvering is required to stay there lest its
audience defect to one of the many alternatives now
available to UAE viewers, especially Al-Jazeera and
Dubai-based, privately-owned Al-Arabiyya. ADTV is
trying hard to retain the sympathies, and therefore
attention, of its audience; its news reports, while
balanced, are interspersed with images of Iraqi
casualties, interviews with commentators critical of
the war, etc. When it was granted an interview with
SecState Powell, the station ran the interview in
full, but followed it with a 20-minute interview with
Arab League SecGen Amr Moussa in which he strongly
condemned the war.

--------------
A Cautionary Tale
--------------


6. (C) Since the conflict began, Al-Ittihad Arabic-
language daily (owned by the government of Abu Dhabi
Emirate) has also tried to provide a moderate
counterbalance to the strident reporting of private
newspapers such as Sharjah-based Al-Khaleej Arabic-
language daily, which carried lurid photos of Iraqi
civilian casualties and numerous editorials and op-eds
denouncing the war and U.S. foreign policy generally.
The results have been disastrous; Al-Ittihad's
distributor called the editor last week to inform him
that sales had plummeted to all-time lows and no one
was buying the paper. (Circulation is 45,000 in good
times). As a result, the coverage in Al-Ittihad has
turned slightly more negative and war-focused, though
it is still well within the bounds of acceptable and
it gives ample coverage to statements of USG
officials, CENTCOM briefings, and commentators both
for and against the war.

--------------
Dubai
--------------


7. (C) Although Dubai Television (DTV) has four
satellite channels, its influence is largely confined
to Dubai and the UAE. It strives to be balanced in
reporting, though it has given substantial airtime to
those with anti-war views. Program Director Nasib
Bitar told Post that DTV is "trying hard to be as
objective as we can, so as not to incite people's
feelings and to report objectively." The difficulties
of balancing good reporting with popular sentiments,
however, are illustrated by an op-ed in Dubai-based
Al-Bayan Arabic-daily on 3/29, in which UAE columnist
Maryam Al-Numaymi writes: "The objectivity of which
our information media are so proud today in covering
the war in Iraq is a sign of weakness to be held
against them, not something deserving praise and
esteem." Al-Bayan's soft-news supplement on 3/29 was
devoted mostly to opinion pieces critical of the war,
many of them taken from western newspapers. Al-
Bayan's war coverage is generally factual, though like
the private press, it occasionally headlines
statements by Iraqi officials as fact rather than
allegations, noting their attribution within the body
of the article.

--------------
Sharjah
--------------


8. (C) Sharjah TV's one channel, which usually
focuses on local events and talk shows with a
religious focus, has in the last two weeks carried
more news and talk shows focusing on analysis of the
war and local opposition to it. Its coverage has
occasionally crossed the bounds of the acceptable; for
example, it refers to the US as "invaders" (Arabic
"ghuzat"). Sharjah TV's audience is very limited.
Post is not able to monitor it consistently because of
the number of media outlets here.

--------------
Widening the Gap
--------------


9. (C) COMMENT: In our conversations with both
journalists and officials, we hear repeatedly the
comment that this war is widening the gap between the
UAE government and the people, and that attempts to
control the media illustrate how wide the gap has
grown and the discomfort of the UAE leadership in
dealing with it. State-owned media are attempting to
bridge this gap by focusing on images of the suffering
of Iraqi civilians, anti-war demonstrations in other
countries (there have been very few here), and
covering local fund-raising campaigns for humanitarian
aid for the Iraqis. They also run numerous wire
service reports and commentaries from the western
press critical of the war and U.S. policy in the
region. They walk a fine line between reflecting
popular feelings about the war and alienating their
audiences completely. Just how difficult this is, is
illustrated by a story we heard from the head of the
Emirates News Agency. He was called last week by
MinInfo Shaykh Abdulla, who asked him how to get the
newspapers to tone down their coverage of the conflict
so that it would not incite popular feeling. (He
volunteered with alacrity that the Undersecretary of
the Ministry do this, not him.) Given the difficulty
the government already faces in containing popular
anger about the war, as well as its efforts to keep
coverage within the pale, any further attempt to
restrict media coverage may be unwelcome.

WAHBA