The curious case of the Dubai TV station which was fined for not airing an interview

Lights, camera, and no action! The Dubai-based station was found to be acting unprofessionally by a Dubai court for not showing an interview, and fined 100,000 Dirhams for its improper conduct (image source: http://www.dreamtek.wordpress.com)

Are you looking for a bizarre story to start off the year? If so, you’re in luck. Dubai’s English-language newspaper Emirates 24/7 reported on the case of a Dubai TV station which was fined over 25 thousand dollars for not airing an interview. Yes, you read it right. The station was fined by a court in the Emirate for not broadcasting a pre-recorded interview. You can read excerpts below.

A well-known guest won a court case and was compensated Dh100,000 by Dubai Court from a TV channel which did not broadcast his interview. A person sued a satellite channel after it hosted him in one of its programmes and did not broadcast the episode after broadcasting advertisement on the channel of his interview and instead broadcasting the interview of a different person.

The plaintiff said that the TV channel approached him for an interview and sent him air tickets and booked him into a hotel. It also recorded an interview with him and said that it will be broadcasted on a particular date.

The plaintiff added that on that day, the TV channel announced that the interview would be broadcasted at a particular time. However, on that time, the TV channel aired an interview with a different person and did not show his interview.

The plaintiff added that he got in touch with the TV channel and tried to find out their reason for not airing his interview, but the TV channel did not give him any answer.

He also said that he requested the TV channel to make an apology for not showing his interview, but there was no response from them.

This, according to the plaintiff, affected him and caused moral damages to him and he filed a lawsuit against the channel before the Dubai Court to compel the TV channel to pay him half-a- million dirhams.

The Dubai Court of First Instances ruled in favour of the plaintiff and that he was eligible of Dh100,000 as compensation for his subsequent psychological and moral damages.

According to Emirates 24/7 the case was reviewed by both the Court of Appeal as well as the the Court of Cassation. The Court of Cassation said in its ruling that the TV channel was guilty of misconduct, and that the station had failed to comply with professional ethics as well as the Press Code of Ethics.

The report doesn’t refer to a specific code of ethics document; in 2007 the UAE media adopted a code of conduct. However, this agreement was based on principles such as respect for the truth, freedom and integrity, fairness to all, transparency, rightful acquisition of information, accuracy in reporting, elimination or minimizing harm, especially in relation to children, credibility in reporting, and respect for personal privacy. The agreement did not seem to be a binding legal contract, and there is no mention of a scenario such as the one above in the reporting on the code of conduct.

I have to hold my hands up and say I’m dumbstruck by this news. For a legal professional to pass judgement on what is essentially a business decision by a news outlet is illogical. The channel did not breach any laws, and it is the right of any media outlet to decide what does construe and what does not construe news. The plaintiff was not out of pocket as his expenses were paid for. His only loss was his time.

The above sets a dangerous precedent for both the media and communicators in the region. While I’m all in favor of professional behaviour for journalists, I also understand and support the right of media outlets to air or publish news as they see fit. The judiciary stepping in to penalize media outlets for simply doing their job is a dangerous precedent for all of us. This is one precedent that I hope is not considered again in any repeated legislation.

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