Viewing cable 03ABUDHABI1482
Title: UAE STATE-OWNED MEDIA'S PORTRAYAL OF THE WAR

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
03ABUDHABI14822003-03-29 11:43:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abu Dhabi
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Diana T Fritz  05/24/2007 04:42:27 PM  From  DB/Inbox:  Search Results

Cable 
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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                                                   
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C O N F I D E N T I A L        ABU DHABI 01482

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    INFO:   DCM P/M ECON RSO AMB 

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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
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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