DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The United Arab Emirates’ most popular newspaper suspended publication Monday for 20 days in compliance with a court ruling after being sued for a story alleging some of the Abu Dhabi ruling family’s horses were doped.
The suspension against the Arabic-language Al Emarat Al Youm was issued last week by the Abu Dhabi Federal Supreme Court, which is the highest court of the Emirates. The court also imposed fines of 20,000 dirhams ($5,445) on the paper’s editor and chief executive.
According to official documents, the newspaper was suspended for “intentionally publishing inaccurate and untrue information” about horses owned by two sons of Sheik Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a prominent member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family and the Emirates’ former deputy prime minister. The newspaper in a 2006 article alleged that their horses were drugged to enhance performance.
The stable owners sued the newspaper, editor Sami al-Reyami and chief executive Abdullatif al-Sayegh for libel and defamation.
A lower court ordered the suspension, but the newspaper appealed to the high court.
Al-Reyami and al-Sayegh could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.
The Dubai-based Arab Media Group, the newspaper’s owner, said in a brief statement the group was “committed to the laws and regulations of the UAE and will fully adhere to the court’s decision with immediate effect.” The group is a division of Dubai Holding, run by the Dubai’s ruling Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The 59-year-old sheik owns several stables, hosts the world’s most lucrative horse race in Dubai every year and rides endurance races.
Several newspapers in the Emirates reported the horse Mohammed rode in 120-kilometer (74.5-mile) endurance races at Bahrain in January and Dubai in February failed doping tests. But local media typically avoid stories that could upset Emirati officials, rarely questioning rulers’ decisions in print and on the air.
The practice has recently been strengthened by the country’s pending media law that includes a staggering fine of $1.35 million for “insulting” members of the ruling elite and up to $136,000 for “carrying misleading news that harms the national economy.”