Thursday, April 17, 2008

The National, a brand new broadsheet

At the beginning of this year i happend to read Tom Gara´s blog, and learned that he was leaving Cairo and was moving to Abu Dhabi to start working with a new project. It´s not everyday a major english-language newpaper launch is done in the Middle East so it caught my eye, especially because it was done with much hype and secrecy, even the name was a secret.

So i was happy to know that the former Daily Telegraph editor Martin Newland and his staff of 175 journalists launched the National yesterday. It happens in a very dynamic region, where expressions like ¨only the sky is the limit¨ is reality and the soundtrack defining the attitude, spirit and klondykeness of the place would be ¨Aint no Mountain high enough¨. The National will have the second largest circulation in the U.A.E with an 80 000 copies edition. Only the established Gulf News have more readers.

It´s owned by state-run Abu Dhabi Media Co, a fact that dosen´t bother Editor-in-Chief Martin Newland:

``Being owned by the government is not problematic''

I hope he´s right!

But then again i thought this part of a Bloomberg story on the National interesting:

Emirati leaders limit demands for greater representation and public debate through state handouts, said Rochdi Younsi, Middle East analyst for New York-based Eurasia Group. The average male Emirati receives benefits worth about 204,000 dirhams ($55,500) a year, according to research by Zayed University in Dubai.

``In return for distributing the wealth, the government ensures long-term popular allegiance,'' Younsi said. ``That's the basic social contract.''

It´s a very prosperous society, but not equally so for everybody, for istance approximately 500 000 construction workers who comes mainly from South Asia have an average salary of 175 USD/month compared to the average per capita income in the UAE of $2,106/month according to the Human Rights Watch report:Building Towers, Cheating Workers - Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in the
United Arab Emirates
. This is of course just part of the plight of these workers - and one could argue that most of them are better of than they would have been, if they would have stayed in their respective home countries.

As Martin Newland so eloquently puts it in the about us section of the National:

"The role of The National is to reflect society, help that society evolve and, perhaps most importantly, promote the bedrock traditions and virtues that must be preserved even in times of change.”

I hope Mr Newland has the will, vision and editorial courage to make justice to his words on reflecting society as it is with it´s different shades, spots and cracks to discover the true face of the United Arab Emirates behind the facade, sweet and sour.

I like what i´ve seen so far, and like to wish Tom an Mr Newland and the rest of the staff the very best of luck, and finally i would like to point to two interesting articles the first one on Abu Dhabi - building a creative city and the second on five-star quality food for prisoners in Abu Dhabi.

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