Dubai website, magazine banned over 'false news' allegation

This screenshot appears after someone tries to open the Arabian Business website in United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have banned a popular Mideast business publication for publishing what they say was "false news." A statement released by the Dubai government on Wednesday says that the Arabian Business website has been blocked and its print edition halted for a month.(AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates banned a popular Mideast website and magazine on Wednesday for publishing what the authorities alleged was "false news."

The move against Arabian Business magazine comes as the seven-state UAE federation and three allies are locked in a bitter diplomatic dispute with fellow Gulf state Qatar.

A statement released by the media office of Dubai, the Mideast's commercial hub, said the magazine's print and online editions would be barred from publishing for a month.

"The magazine committed violation of the rules and regulations of Dubai Creative Clusters Authority (DCCA) by publishing false news that was based on inaccurate information," the statement said, without elaborating.

The DCCA was set up by Dubai's ruler in 2014 to regulate operations in business parks focused on the media, internet and other industries.

Both the media office and the federal National Media Council, which regulates media activities nationwide, referred questions to the DCCA. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An editor who answered the phone at Arabian Business declined to comment, and other officials at the magazine and its parent company ITP Media Group did not respond to queries.

The magazine recently reported that courts in Dubai were in the process of liquidating dozens of failed real estate projects in the boomtown, which weathered a severe property slump as part of the global financial crisis in 2009.

It soon deleted the online article and posted an apology online Friday. It said the piece was an "oversight" and related to projects dating from 2010 that are "now outdated."

But by then, the article had already been picked up by other publications, including in Qatar, attracting the ire of Emirati authorities and state-linked media.

The Dubai media office said Saturday on Twitter that it "ruled out a report published by Arabian Business (and) copied by Qatari media" about the projects.

The Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar early last month, accusing it of supporting extremists — a charge Qatar denies.

Emirati authorities have warned that showing sympathy for Qatar online is punishable under the country's sweeping cybercrime legislation, which criminalizes a broad range of online activity and allows for long prison sentences and hefty fines. Human rights groups say the law and measures such as censorship of online content limit freedom of expression in the UAE.

Besides Arabic and English editions of Arabian Business, ITP publishes regional versions of several international titles, including Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Time Out.

Internet users who attempted to reach the Arabian Business site in the UAE on Wednesday saw messages similar to those used for other types of censored content saying access was prohibited.

___

Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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