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DMC urges media to use tribunal

A tribunal set up over two years ago by Dubai Media City to adjudicate on how print and broadcast media manages issues such as freedom of expression, privacy and fairness, has not heard a single case so far.

A tribunal set up over two years ago by Dubai Media City to adjudicate on how print and broadcast media manages issues such as freedom of expression, privacy and fairness, has not heard a single case. Despite being established in November 2003 by the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone, the Broadcasting and Publication Standards Tribunal (BPST) has not had a case referred to it by either Tecom officials or broadcasters and publishers working within the media hub.

During a meeting at DMC’s office last month for its business partners, only one of the 50 people present, claimed to have even heard of the BPST.

Jonathan Caplan QC, one of the tribunal’s two international representatives, told the meeting: “To date, the tribunal has not sat to hear any case. Awareness of the tribunal is clearly a matter that needs addressing. I hope that one of the consequences of today is that awareness about the body will be increased.”

In addition to the two international lawyers, the tribunal is also made up of five Dubai-based lawyers who are experienced in dealing with media cases. Free Zone broadcasters and publishers wanting clarification on potentially sensitive issues can use the tribunal for adjudication. Tecom can also refer cases to it. The adjudications are based on regulations and codes of guidance that are modelled on international best practice. Issues covered include religious sensibilities, drugs, violence, alcohol, smoking and sex. Any rulings it makes can be accepted or rejected by Tecom. “We are seeking to uphold standards of freedom of expression,” says retired British judge and chairman of the BPST, Sir Brian Neill. “We hope in future that we will fulfil a more useful role. We have five respected lawyers from Dubai, and we envisaged that the tribunal would be asked to give rulings. But that hasn’t happened. We are anxious to get things going.”

Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, executive director of media at Tecom said she wanted to see more Media City companies using the tribunal. “What I see in the future is people really challenging what we mean by freedom of expression and using the tribunal to do so. It is changing the mindset of how things are done here in Media City. I hope more business partners will use the tribunal.”

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