x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Transparency makes its mark in Dubai standoff

Increased transparency can prevent any unnecessary misunderstanding and help bring people onside with important policy initiatives

The dramatic events of Sunday, when a woman walked into the offices of Dubai's Public Prosecution and threatened to blow herself up, illustrate how much ground both Dubai Police and the UAE national security agencies have covered in recent years in the field of crisis management.

The relative operational transparency of both bodies, their swift dissemination of the facts and their appropriate use of social media, ensured the authorities were able to stop a rumour mill that could easily have wheeled out of control. In the process, they soothed public fears about a possible suicide bomber being at large in Dubai.

Zulfiya Hamraeva from Uzbekistan eventually turned herself in after 13 hours of negotiations. The woman is embroiled in a domestic dispute over the paternity of her son and claimed during the standoff that her child is the product of an extramarital affair with an Emirati. Separately, her husband, a Syrian expatriate, is being held at Dubai Central Prison on charges related to a financial matter.

After negotiators persuaded the woman to give herself up, Dubai Police used their official Twitter account to announce that the situation had been resolved and quell rumours that the woman had been wearing an explosive belt.

This incident is a fine example of the power of transparency.

As The National reported yesterday, government departments have been advised to adapt to the increasing popularity of social media in the GCC and elsewhere in the world by interacting more with people and by being more responsive to criticism.

During the GCC Government Social Media Summit in Dubai, Ibrahim Ahmed Elbadawi from the public-sector advisory company Exantium said that most government communications departments around the region had not previously included social media in their initial strategies.

The UAE, however, is moving in the right direction. Government departments have started to pay more attention to social media, with an increasing number of accounts launched in the past few years to communicate with the public.

However, there are still areas that need to be improved. Increased transparency can prevent any unnecessary misunderstanding and help bring people onside with important policy initiatives.

Twitter and Facebook are here to stay. How these resources are harnessed is, however, as important as their ubiquitous presence in our lives.