Mystery surrounds planned UAE daily

Will it or won’t it? That’s the question surrounding the launch of the UAE’s first evening newspaper.

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By  John Irish Published  April 1, 2004

Reports emanating from the press last month suggested the UAE newspaper market was gearing up for the region’s first seven days a week evening newspaper. Some even suggested Emirates Evening Post would be with us as early as April. Early optimism appears to have died down. Its editor indicated things might not be so straightforward, while sources within the industry questioned the likelihood of the paper getting past first base. “We’re expecting to launch in the next couple of months, but if we don’t then the summer will come and things will look bleak,” Bikram Vohra, the newspaper’s editor and a former editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times and Gulf Today, told Arabian Business. Vohra and Khaleej Times’ former managing director, Qassim Mohammed, the paper’s publisher, confirmed the paper had received an operating licence, issued by the Ministry of Information. However, the UAE’s complicated media laws mean permission to print from the ruler’s court itself is also needed for a daily newspaper. A spokesman from the Ministry of Information went further, highlighting the differences between operating within and outside Dubai Media City (DMC). “In theory, if it is produced inside DMC then it should not be distributed inside the country, but that doesn’t always apply as was the case with Seven Days [a free bi-weekly tabloid in Dubai],” explained Peter Hellyer. “So the situation is unclear at the moment.” Although Emirates Evening Post does have an office in the Media City, its main offices are elsewhere in Dubai. One industry source did speculate on condition of anonymity. The source said he believed the newspaper was unlikely to be granted permission to print. He claimed the newspaper had been due to launch in February, but was already put back to March and then April. “If they knew the right people, then it would already be out here,” said the source. One reason why the paper may have difficulties acquiring permission, he went on to say, was its foreign ownership. Although Qassim Mohammed is a UAE national, the backers, it appears, are Indian businessmen and the Business India Group, a Mumbai-based publishing group. When Arabian Business attempted to contact Mohammed to clarify the financial and legal situation, he was unavailable for comment on several occasions. However, a spokesperson on his behalf said he would contact Arabian Business should there be any developments of interest, adding that the newspaper was not ready for launch yet. Whatever the situation, Emirates Evening Post is an ambitious project. Describing it as a fun newspaper, Vohra says its objective is to take up an afternoon to evening slot. It does not aim to compete with the morning newspapers and hopes to tap into the evening commuter market. Evening papers across the world are relatively successful, but unlike Dubai, where most people drive, there are alternative forms of transport handling the commuter traffic. Although many evening publications come in the tabloid format, due to advertising concerns, Emirates Evening Post is set to be a broadsheet. “We will be heavy on local news, signposting what’s happening in the 4pm-midnight slot in Dubai,” explained Vohra. “But we’ll carry the top international stories.” Should the newspaper get the go ahead, Vohra believes his experience will help it circumvent any censorship issues. “We know our way around the minefield. I think this city has a tougher skin than people think. We’ll try and walk the water without getting our feet wet. We’re going to try to be different, more vibrant and energetic. We want to bring back journalism, which I think is largely vanishing here,” he said. Although there are three morning broadsheets, some editors are calling the UAE newspaper market monopolistic and lacking in choice. Former Gulf News business editor, Eudore Chand, believes somebody needs to take on the broadsheets head on to break their dominance and end years of complacency. “I don’t think they should introduce an entirely new concept that people aren’t used to,” he says. “If they haven’t got the competitions, incentives or freebies, then they’ll go the way of Gulf Today, which has a very small circulation.”

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