Impartial Courts for Media Cases in Abu Dhabi

Dr. Abdullah Al-Awadhi: Impartial Courts for Media Cases in Abu Dhabi

  • 26 July 2009

The local media has welcomed the recent announcement on the establishment of specialized courts and prosecution offices for dealing with media-related cases in Abu Dhabi. Media outlets had been waiting for decades for specialized courts to taeed to their affairs, only a specialized judge could be properly aware of the technicalities involved and the rights and duties of a journalist. In my opinion, this new legal measure is part of a larger intuitive to overhaul media-related jurisprudence for the sake of promoting media¿s role so that it contributes meaningfully to the comprehensive development of the country. In addition, this measure is part of the judicial reforms process initiated by the Abu Dhabi government for the sake of finding a specialized and qualitative judicial system that would speed up decision-making within a reasonable time period and with great efficiency.

Some might rightly say that the UAE does not have a large number of media-related cases or disputes related to publishing and printing industry, which might necessitate the creation of specialized courts. Over the last decades, a negligible number of disputes and legal cases related to the media had cropped up and that they were settled by the general courts. In addition, traditional values of the UAE society themselves serve as a powerful deterrent against instances of defamation against individuals or the publication of inappropriate content. Although there is merit in the contention, it must not serve as an excuse and justification for not establishing specialized legal institutions for the media. Even if the need for such courts may not appear to be immediate, they would be essential for the future. The establishment of this specialized court anticipates possible changes in the future, on account of a dynamic society. In addition, the building of qualitative legal institutions is considered one of the most important preventative means against any complex legal cases related to media and journalism.  In addition, these institutions would provide support to the activities of the media, and would serve as a protective shield against some of the challenges faced by media outlets. They would also create a conducive social environment for dealing with the problems and events.

Some would claim that the establishment of courts, specialized in the field of media and journalism, would entail a violation of the citizens¿ rights of equality before the law, or represents an injustice to the freedom of expression. This claim can be answered easily. The existence of specialized courts for media cases conforms with the specialized nature of media-related activities, and would facilitate the activities of media professionals. In addition, the availability of judges specialized in the field of the media as well as in the legal field would remove the obstacles faced by media officials from the misinterpretations of the contents of the published material. Thus, administration of justice in media-related cases would be enhanced, which would not impede but promote media-related freedoms. In addition, freedom of opinion, speech and journalism is consecrated by the constitution, and guaranteed by the law, and the formation of specialized courts for media and journalism will not undermine those freedoms but promote them in their proper direction. When these courts are established, media-related cases will be dealt under publishing and printing laws and not under the current penal laws. In addition, the opening of these courts would speed up the litigation process and end the delays that some media personnel complain about, because their cases are currently tied to the thousands of other cases pending before general courts. More important, media personnel facing charges would not be treated or placed alongside petty criminals in public courts.

We believe that the officials who have launched the project of courts and prosecution offices specialized in the cases of journalism, publishing and mass media are completely aware of the cultural dimension of the development process of the UAE society, even if this initiative is currently restricted to Abu Dhabi. The capital must set an example for the rest of the emirates, anyway. Later this attempt can be studied from all aspects by concerned agencies in all the emirates so that such initiatives are spread to other parts of the federation. We trust that the state leadership and its men have the wisdom to facilitate the dissemination of this process. In fact, media outlets should work toward spreading this initiative to cover federal and local judicial system in the UAE.

The sovereign decision for the establishment of specialized media courts has been taken, and the administrative and organizational procedures for implementing it are being formulated. Furthermore, an important section of demands of media personnel are related to the creation of a specialized legal framework that is aligned to their daily concerns and cases. Following this, the responsibility lies with media personnel who bear a moral and professional responsibility, because it is the only thing that would protect them from difficulties. The main objective is to develop society by providing information through various media outlets.

We do not want to anticipate events, but we say that one should wait for the actual performance of the new specialized courts, than pass judgments on them even before their establishment. We set high hopes from this initiative because it is an important element for building and firmly establishing the legislative and institutional structure of the UAE. Contemplation and deliberate action must be our motto for realizing this noble goal. It is hoped that legal protection is provided to media personnel in the press, radio, TV or in the multimedia in the age of information and globalization, in order to enable them to perform their work in an environment pervading with clarity and stability.