Last Thursday a story broke in the international media about a rape case in Dubai. A British female tourist reported that she was raped by two men, leading to her arrest and theirs. The charges have since been dropped due to careful examination of all evidence, supporting the men’s story that the act was consensual.
The alleged victim was arrested on suspicion of extra-marital sex, causing widespread outrage and international media covered the story consistently for the week after the story first broke. The Independent covered it in the UK, RT covered it in Russia and soon CNN picked it up in the US.
Many other news outlets covered the story and social media commentators made their views known. One video, shared heavily on social platforms, warned visitors against travelling to Dubai. It was aptly titled 'DO NOT GO TO DUBAI'…
The story was therefore, even more noticeably absent from UAE media outlets. No media outlet in the UAE commented on the story until both 7days and Lovin Dubai did three days after the story broke. Dubai was put in the spotlight and there was criticism regarding the lack of reporting by media here.
There is a reason for this though. In Dubai, incidents are covered when they appear in court, or in official police reports, not just when they pop up on your newsfeed and timeline. Since the case has developed, the media here have provided a commentary, based upon the statements from all parties, and the decision to drop the charges.
Lovin Dubai is an independent publication. We aren’t interfered with editorially, and you can tell by our name, that we’re all about showing love to Dubai. While we take pride in our city, we try to be objective when reporting news, including the most controversial stories.
So, Is This A Western Media Bashing Of Dubai?
The media is bias. Every publication has it’s own agenda, regardless of how objective they allude to be because complete objectivity is near impossible. However, some reporting bias is more harmful than others.
Reports in the UK in the lead up to Brexit, particularly from right-wing publications (Conservative government) swayed voters to believe in divisions and false economic promises. The US media speak vitriol of Russia - you just have to read the editorial section of the WSJ for evidence of that.
We often see Western outlets deride other cultures and religions with tabloid-esque headlines, especially in times where public support needs to be swayed to support international and domestic policy. In the lead up to the Middle Eastern wars in the last couple of decades, and most recently the refugee crisis, western media became even less subtle with throwing shade at the MENA region. Unless an article is talking about food, it’s very hard to find favourable coverage of the Middle East.
The UAE rarely comments on international laws and stories. They seem to understand that different, religions, cultures and laws exist and what may work in one country isn’t applicable in another. Every country has its own issues, but rather than laying blame, the UAE trusts other leaders to handle the situation and understand that criticism isn’t always necessary. And that reporting should take into account the full facts.
The aforementioned video that has gone viral insinuating that Dubai is a dangerous place couldn’t be further from the truth. We live in a culture where strangers will invite you to their homes for tea and where you can leave your phone on a table and it won’t disappear within 5 seconds. If you’re going to visit, it’s just worth finding out if you’ll be committing any acts that may cause offense to the culture here.
If you still need some rumors debunked: Men and women mix in society. Women hold places in government and they head up huge organizations. Rape and violence are not tolerated, and are punishable, as they should be, with all the case facts.
The Same Respect For The Law Of The Land Should Be Afforded To The UAE
Although the initial story was horrifying and we were shocked at the imprisonment of a rape victim, we understood the reasons for a lack of media coverage. Rather than sensationalizing the news, the media here respected the victim’s privacy and refrained from pointing fingers. This was unlike the international media who immediately used the case to criticism the UAE’s laws. The coverage was one-sided, and perhaps worst of all, rather than reporting the facts, stories used bias, misleading and inaccurate information just support an ‘anti-Dubai’ agenda.
This incident should have been treated like any other crime, and reported with the facts. As far as we initially knew, a woman was allegedly raped. It was news; not tabloid gossip. We have seen numerous cases of where International media pick a an incident and use it to support a particular agenda of late.
It should not have been a media free for all, where Dubai is on the receiving end of such negativity. The negative sentiment on social media around the keywords 'visit Dubai' increased five fold in the past few days, all related (source: Augustus media internal data). The international media should have focused on the facts, not how to spin the story to generate a negative and couldn’t-be-further-from-the-truth image of Dubai.
The law is that a female can't be alone in a room with a man that she is not closely related to. This was a point bolded, italicized, and underlined in most of the international stories – irrelevant to the story, and presumably just a fear-mongering tactic, and a cheap one at that.
While this is the law, and should be respected, have you seen how diverse and adaptable society is here in Dubai? We’re not a segregated society. While this point was used to suggest that women do not have rights here, the reality is that they do and as well as rights, they have respect. They’re not used as cheap marketing ploys, and are playing an increased role in business, government and military.