Old News, New News: The strange tale of how the ten-year old drowning daughter story was reported as recent news

The Daily Mail was one of several UK-based publications to fail to fact-check the original story which was published in Emirates 24/7

The Daily Mail was one of several UK-based publications to fail to fact-check the original story which was published in Emirates 24/7

One could be forgiven for thinking it’s funny news season here in the Gulf. One story from Dubai’s shores went global this week, the tale of how an Asian father who prevented Dubai lifeguards from saving his drowning daughter, claiming she would be dishonoured if she was touched by strange men, has been arrested and prosecuted by authorities after his actions led to the death of the 20-year-old girl.

The piece was reported by the UAE’s English-language portal Arabian Business, after a post in the English daily Emirates 24/7. The story, a harrowing tale of how a young woman drowned because her father would not let the male lifeguards touch her, made headlines around the world, and was carried by the UK’s the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Metro and Sky News. Here’s the piece from Arabian Business.

An Asian father who prevented Dubai lifeguards from saving his drowning daughter, claiming she would be dishonoured if she was touched by strange men, has been arrested and prosecuted by authorities after his actions led to the death of the 20-year-old girl, Emirates 24/7 reported.

“The Asian father took his wife and kids to the beach for picnic and fun. The kids were swimming in the beach when suddenly, the 20-year-old girl started drowning and screaming for help,” Lt. Col Ahmed Burqibah, Deputy Director of Dubai Police’s Search and Rescue Department, told the website as he recounted the incident, which took place on a Dubai public beach.

“Two rescue men were at the beach, and they rushed to help the girl…. The father was a tall and strong man. He started pulling and preventing the rescue men and got violent with them. He told them that he prefers his daughter being dead than being touched by a strange man.”

“This is one of the incidents which I cannot forget. It shocked me and many others who were involved in the case,” he added.

The actions of the father resulted in the death of the young woman. The father was subsequently arrested for preventing the lifeguards from doing their job and aiding in the death of his daughter.

“He was prosecuted and sued by the concerned authorities,” Lt. Col. Burqibah confirmed.

Unfortunately, whoever picked up the piece from Emirates 24/7 didn’t see one small but pertinent piece of information from the original story.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Lt. Col Ahmed Burqibah, Deputy Director of Dubai Police’s Search and Rescue Department, recounting some of the worst incidents he had encountered in his tenure, said that this incident took place at a beach in Dubai.

The mistake was first picked up by the Guardian’s Media Monkey blog. The blog’s writer delighted in having a dig at the publications which had failed to fact check and republish the story as if it were a recent event.

When news editors across the land facing a slow news day on Monday saw the story of a father who let his daughter drown in Dubai because he “didn’t want strange men touching her”, they surely couldn’t believe their luck.

The Mail, Telegraph, Metro and even Sky News all jumped on the story, which came via Agence France Press.

However, Monkey is told that classifying the story as “news” might be stretching it a little.

Apparently the article – which originated on the website Emirates 24/7 – was from an interview in which lifeguards were asked to recount the strangest things that had happened to them. As someone who bothered to check out where it came from tells Monkey: “They mentioned this case of the Asian man who prevented his daughter’s rescue, but, and here’s the catch – it was from 1996.”

Perhaps it’s a case of any old news will do … at least when there isn’t much news at all.

The Gulf’s media is often criticized for not getting the facts right or forgetting to fact-check. But, it seems that even media outlets which are supposed to operate to a different standard can often fail to properly do their homework in the chase for a story which confirms their stereotypes of the region.

I’m now waiting for some journalist looking for a heart-wrenching scoop to pick up on the Cops save boy… villagers kill him with ‘love’ piece, again from Emirates2 4/7.

PS I’m not even going to go into the piece written by Arabian Business which poses the question ‘Does Dubai need more female lifeguards, in light of recent beach tragedy?’ How is this still online?

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.