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ANHRI concerned over passage of media regulation law

(ANHRI/IFEX) - ANHRI has followed with deep concern and disappointment the passage of the law for regulation of the media by the Federal National Council during its last session on 20 January 2009. ANHRI feels that this has been done without regard for differing opinions and a total rejection of concerned media professionals and interested parties within the community. These concerns have been repeatedly voiced since the legislation was leaked to a local newspaper and published on 22 September 2008. The newspaper received a warning from the national council for media as a consequence.

ANHRI has voiced its criticism and comments concerning the law, pointing out a number of violations within its provisions and the ambiguity in the expression of several articles which are open to interpretation, or on the other hand the only too clear and overly restrictive provisions for censorship and penalties. There are in addition many other stipulations which could easily lead to more serious consequences for freedom of the press in the country overall.

At the same time, some articles by Emirati writers reacting to the legislation were banned from publication by the newspapers by an official order made by some of the state media authorities. The decision, communicated to the media by a group of individuals, resulted in the withdrawal of the proofs at the last minute, when they had previously been accepted for publication as credible sources.

ANHRI calls for an urgent intervention by civil society organizations at all levels to work for the cancellation of this law and the prevention of its publication and enforcement by the president. According to ANHRI, it constitutes a blatant violation of freedom of expression and of all international treaties and conventions which provide for the right of the journalists and media workers to access information according to the law. These rights are genuine and unprejudiced, and without them this important sector could not carry out its mission to society and the state. In addition, ANHRI feels that the law will have a serious impact on the independence of the judiciary, particularly as regards article 35 which prevents the implementation of judicial rulings if they are deemed incompatible with the provisions of the new legislation. Moreover, particularly relevant are the two articles after that which grant the national council for the media the power to terminate the licenses of newspapers or broadcasters by an administrative decision and not a judicial one.

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