x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Journalism 101

Claims by Anti-Slavery International about the young camel riders at the Sweihan Cultural Festival should have been checked by the papers that repeated them.

There have been far too many examples of late where the western media has sniffed a story about the UAE and ran to the presses without doing their due diligence. A scandal sells, even if the facts have to be massaged to fit the headline. And now the human rights body Anti-Slavery International, based in London, claims that young boys were forced to race camels in this year's Sweihan Cultural Festival. Prominent papers in the British press have been all-too-quick to spill ink on the subject.

There is an unfortunate history of foreign boys formerly being forced to work as camel jockeys. In a public apology, the Government replaced the child jockeys with robots and banned the practice. The races today are not the same thing. Boys do race; in Emirati culture, boys have been racing camels for generations. The festival's rules stipulate appropriate safety measures, the boys' willing participation and - this is crucial - parental approval and attendance at the race. The human rights group should have verified these facts; journalists, by the very definition of their job, have a duty to do so.