Eritrea, URBN, re-re-rebuttal…

I have been quite vocal (verbal?) in my criticisms of Gulf News. My main problem is that it functions as a PR vehicle for the Dubai government and the quality of its writing and analysis is terrible. However imagine my surprise when I saw this headline online. “Eritrea denies training rebels for Iran, Yemen”.

A real story about a real issue with regional significance. It seemed too good to be true. Sadly it was. As soon as the second paragraph, I knew I was in familiar GN territory.

Gulf News was given exclusive access to the military facilities and this correspondent toured the war-torn country and did not find any evidence of training for foreign fighters.”

What a shocker. GN was chaperoned around the most repressive country on Earth and did not find any training camps. What would the alternative be? That they did find evidence? This story should have been killed from the start, and whatever Abdul Nabi Shaheen’s credentials as a journalist, he most likely has limited experience a military inspector.

The low point in the whole tired exercise is this sub-head:


Gulf News wins!!!! The UN loses!!!!! Actually journalism loses and GN’s reputation as being purveyors of nonsense wins too.

To recap: Eritrea is one of the most brutal regimes on the planet – they are not going to bring any journalist to a site where anything untoward is going on. This is so blindingly obvious, yet somehow GN is acting as if it has scooped the world. It hasn’t, it has just regurgitated the propaganda of Afewerki’s government.

Mishaal Al Gergawi has posted a piece responding to my defence of the Foreign Policy article I wrote. I will respond to that tomorrow when I have more time. I actually agree with a lot of what he has said, and am trying to learn more about this country so I can write about it more clearly. It would help if I could read Arabic but due to my own ineptness/laziness I have not learnt it. Many will argue I should not write about Dubai at all being neither a native nor an Arabic speaker and that would be a fair point. However whatever my shortcomings in knowledge, I come with no ulterior motives – I am completely objective (or try to be) when it comes to the UAE. I live here and enjoy living here, but creating debate is one of the ways a society can improve and people can learn more. I certainly learnt more about Dubai from Mishaal’s pieces – and I will respond to him tomorrow, without getting into an endless round of arguing over the same points. I also think that these are the debates the local English-language press should be engaged in, but unfortunately, apart from a few notable exceptions, they are not.

In other news, URBN, the company I co-founded went live with our first project – content for the Kuwait carrier Wataniya. We are currently boot-strapping the company with some success and more clients look likely in the next week. Having said that if any potential investors would like to invest in a company that aims to dominate the mobile/social space in the region, feel free to get in touch. I will even pay for the coffee.


  1. Simon

    Why don’t you go to Eritrea yourself, the government has made open offer for anyone to come and they will let you go wherever you want to go courtesy of the gov..

    • theartoftheblag

      Hi Simon, where did you read that? I have tried twice before but was not allowed a visa because I was on a journalist visa here. Always wanted to go to Asmara.

  2. Pingback: Gulf News’ intrepid reporting in Eirtrea « The Gulf blog

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