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Sunday, 21 January, 2001, 09:45 GMT
Dubai launches Media City
Dubai Media City logo/visitors
The complex is a sister project to Dubai Internet City
By Julia Wheeler in Dubai

The Gulf emirate of Dubai has officially opened the latest project designed to help diversify its economy.

Through Dubai Media City, it is aiming to attract global media companies and act as their regional hub.

What we would like is for it to be a home for talented people

Saeed Al-Muntafiq, Media City CEO

Along with the launch of Media City comes a promise of freedom of expression for journalists in the Emirate, but there are concerns about how realistic that will prove.

A spectacular firework and light show signalled the official launch of the project, which was announced less than three months ago by the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid.

Media magnet

The multi-million-dollar business park is the sister project to Dubai Internet City, which opened in October.

Dubai is the Gulf's commercial hub
The Chief Executive Officer of Media City, Saeed Al-Muntafiq, wants it to create a pool of creative talent, including journalists, broadcasters, advertising agencies, musicians and artists.

"What we would like is for it to be a home for talented people, a home whereby knowledge and knowledge transfer and the communication of knowledge becomes its core focus," he said.

"In five years we aspire for it to be the place, the hub, the market place for this region - for them not just to deal in media, but to deal in information and knowledge."

Press freedom

But the opening of Media City has a greater significance for the United Arab Emirates and potentially for the rest of the Gulf.

Dubai newspapers
Dubai newspapers: Saudi Arabia may be wary of the UAE's media showcase

Sheikh Mohammed has directly linked it to the broadening of press freedoms in the conservative region.

He has said the press and broadcasters in the emirate will have the right to be completely objective in their views and reporting.

Mr Muntafiq says such freedoms must take into account the culture of the region and, most of all, they must generate accurate reporting.

"If you look at the publications that are issued - be it the Financial Times, be it the BBC - you will cover whatever happens here and send it out.

"If you were to operate out of Dubai Media City and if you were to go out and say something that is not true, like anywhere else in the world people will come and talk to you about it."

Of course, the conflict is likely to come when a journalist reports on a controversial or sensitive issue.

There has been a warning that freedom comes with joint price tags of integrity and responsibility. But it is not clear who will decide exactly what constitutes responsible journalism.

What is also unclear is the reaction of the UAE's powerful neighbour, Saudi Arabia, which has one of the most censored press corps in the world.

A controversial story on Saudi Arabia from a Dubai Media City-based reporter could see political fireworks fly.

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See also:

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