ABU DHABI // The Arabic daily newspaper Al Emarat Al Youm will be suspended for 20 days after losing an appeal in the country's highest court against charges of libel and defamation, according to a prosecutor. Sami al Reyami, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, and Abdullatif al Sayegh, the chief executive of Arab Media Group, the publication's owner, were also ordered by the Federal Supreme Court on Monday to pay fines of Dh20,000 (US$5,400) each, said Ammar al Khaja, the prosecuting lawyer.
The libel case stemmed from a front-page article the paper published in October 2006, alleging that Abu Dhabi's Warsan Stables drugged its horses during races. "The newspaper itself will be suspended for 20 days," said Mr al Khaja. "Yesterday I was in a meeting with the Minister of Justice, and he told me that in about a week they will execute the judgment," he added. Court proceedings began in January 2007, but the newspaper was given a year to prove the story was true, according to Mr al Khaja.
It had appealed against a suspension ordered last November. No one from Arab Media Group or Al Emarat Al Youm was available for comment yesterday. The practice of temporarily or permanently suspending a newspaper's licence to publish has come under criticism from local and international organisations. Mohammed Yousef, the head of the UAE's Journalists Association, has called for an end to the practice, and Human Rights Watch called recently for a repeal of sections of UAE media law, currently under revision, which allow for suspending or revoking licences.