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Sun 21 Jan 2001 04:00 AM

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Rulers call for Press freedom at DMC opening

Act one, scene one of the story of Dubai Media City was in the can last night as His Highness Sheikh Mohammed officially declared the city open. Calls for media freedom dominated dignitory speeches.

An evening dominated by a spectacular firework display marked the official opening of Dubai Media City yesterday.The city's three office blocks, which are already virtually sold-out, according to DMC officials, now stand as a symbol for free media in Dubai. "We want Dubai Media City to be the arena for free thinking talent," said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence, in his opening address. Echoing that call for openness was Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Information and Culture. His message on cutting the media free was unequivocal. "When I talk about media freedom, I do not mean it as an ambiguous and misleading phrase," he said.A key role for Dubai Media City will be the development of indigenous talent within the Arab world. The Ministry of Information and Culture is establishing a special Media Institute in the city designed to encourage UAE nationals to move into the media industry.At the same time, Sheikh Abdullah asserted that there would be no absolute requirement for local media houses to take quotas of national employees. "We shall continue to encourage the recruitment of more UAE citizens into all parts of the media industry. However, I should stress that the prime consideration for the recruitment of an individual for a position in the media should be that of his or her qualifications," he explained.UAE nationals assured of a job in Dubai Media City are those working at Emirates Media Corporation (EMC), for which Sheikh Abdullah is chairman. The company has been granted land at DMC to develop into areas including print, broadcasting and television. No further details of the project were released last night.With the three buildings of Dubai Media City already full, work is already planned to start on phase two of the project at the end of the month. Over 300,000 square feet of space will be added to the city, said Mohammed Al Gergawi, director general of Dubai Technology, E-commerce and Media Free Zone Authority, the management company of both Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City.

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