A few years ago, I used to work as a technology journalist in Dubai, UAE. It was an eye opening experience in all manner of ways but, ultimately, my life as journalist there was a frustrating one.
The idea is that journalists in the UAE have the freedom to write whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the country’s finances or reputation. In other words, you have no freedom.
Today, a journalist who I worked with over there alerted me to a story that touches upon this.
The story was about an Indian man who used his mobile phone to film his Indian friend being physically assaulted by a UAE government official. He then uploaded the video on YouTube to bring it to other peoples’ attention.
So what did the police do? They arrested the man who filmed the incident and threw him in jail.
The Emirati who assaulted the Indian faces up to a year in jail or a maximum fine of up to AED10,000 for ‘minor assault’. The man who filmed the attack, exposed the wrongdoing and brought it to the public’s attention faces a maximum of two years in jail or a fine of up to AED20,000 if convicted of filming without permission or defamation.
I would describe it as a shocking story but sadly it didn’t come as a surprise to either me or my former colleague.
It does, however, highlight an important and interesting way in which people are using technology today – catching people ‘in the act’ and exposing wrongdoing at the click of a button. If this video hadn’t been recorded and uploaded to the web nobody would have been any the wiser. As it is, almost 200,000 people around the world have viewed it.
The fact is, there are now tens of millions of potential photojournalists based all around the world. As far as I’m concerned, keep recording and keep uploading. Share information, good or bad. Surely, if you do nothing wrong and have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear?