The Abu Dhabi Branch of the Journalists Association organized a seminar on Tuesday, under the theme “Posting Amateur Footage of Traffic Accidents: a Widespread Phenomenon”.

Participants  at the seminar included Brigadier Ghaith Hassan Al Zaabi, Director General, Traffic Coordination Department, Ministry of Interior,  and Board Member of the Emirates Traffic Safety Society; Abdullah Ibrahim Shaheen, Media Expert and  Press Branch Manager at the Security Media Department, at the General Secretariat of the Office of H.H Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior; Dr. Soraya Al Snoussi, Associate Professor, Media and Public Relations Program at the Emirates College of Technology in Abu Dhabi, and Member of the Arabic Organization for Traffic Safety; and Saleh Karamah Al Ameri, Administrative Board Member of the Association Abu Dhabi Branch. The lecture was moderated by Abdulrahman Naqi, the Association’s Board Member.

The seminar was attended by Sadiq Fateh Ali Al Khaja, Founding Member of the Parents Council - Abu Dhabi; Abdullah Rashid, Abu Dhabi Gulf News Office Director; Captain Ahmed Al Hajri, Deputy Director of the National Ambulance Company; Journalist Maher Al Ja'farawi, Chief of Coordination and External Activities at the Press Branch at the Security Media Department; and representatives of the media.  

Journalist Abdulrahman Naqi welcomed the participants and the attendees. He stressed that the event stems out of both the Association and journalists’ social responsibility approach  towards this objectionable phenomenon that is commonly widespread in society, which involves taking camera or video footage of traffic accidents and posting them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media. Naqi called for concerted efforts to address this issue, and praised the efforts exerted by the Ministry of Interior, the Security Media Department, the Emirates Traffic Safety Society, and Saaed Society to Reduce Traffic Accidents in the fight against this occurrence.

During the opening session, Brigadier Ghaith Al Zaabi tackled the traffic conditions in the UAE, and gave an overview of traffic accidents and the resulting deaths and injuries during the period ranging from 2008 to 2013.

He said, “Traffic accidents remain a global public health and safety concern, despite the remarkable and encouraging progress made in a number of countries in this area.” Adding further, Brigadier Al Zaabi noted that worldwide, traffic accidents claim more than 1 million lives each year, according to the global status report on road safety, recently published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Furthermore, he noted that the Ministry of Interior has dedicated significant attention to safety and road security, which represent one of the main objectives of the Traffic Sector’s Strategy. “This strategy includes several pillars for traffic safety, namely; awareness; education; traffic culture;  engineering, road and vehicles safety; control; legislation; law enforcement; as well as medical and ambulance services,” he continued.

On the same note, Brigadier Al Zaabi reviewed statistics related to traffic accident fatalities, injuries, violations; the road death rate in road accidents per 100,000 people in the total population; as well as the number of vehicles and the number of driving licenses in the UAE.

Brigadier Al Zaabi also highlighted the most common types of traffic accidents across the emirate, their causes, deaths, injuries, in addition to the age groups involved in traffic accidents.

For her part, Dr. Soraya Al Snoussi discussed the role of the media in the efforts to reduce road accidents through the awareness-raising programs in various media, including the radio, television and the press. These programs aim to educate young people about the negative impacts of traffic accidents on the community.

For his part, Media expert Abdullah Shaheen highlighted the risks of crowding at accident sites, where some people take camera or video footage of the accident out of curiosity in order to post them on social networking sites. He also pointed out that the Federal Penal Code, the Cyber Crimes Law, and the Publications and Publishing Law have criminalized activities that involve taking camera or video footage of road accident victims and publishing them via social networking sites, even after explicit consent of the victim’s parents.

Moreover, Shaheen noted that combating this objectionable issue would require the concerted efforts of all institutions to enhance the public’s awareness of the legal and social implications of such actions. He indicated that this behavior, which started 15 years ago, was common among Asian communities who would crowd at accident sites out of curiosity. However, with the development of modern means of communication and emergence of social networking sites, it became a dangerous occurrence, when people started taking footage of such accidents and posting them on social networking sites; with complete disregard of the legal and social implications of such behavior.

Shaheen also highlighted the prominent and positive role undertaken by the Security Media Department at the General Secretariat of the Office of H.H Deputy Prime Minister of Interior, in the fight against this issue, by providing professional footage to the local media about road accidents that occur within the emirate of Abu Dhabi; with the aim of spreading awareness among the public. He also praised the Security Media Department’s efforts in organizing courses for press and various media photographers on the optimal ways of handling the crime scene.

Furthermore, Shaheen lauded the directives of His Highness Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, to launch Security Media Patrols in 2010, a leading project at the regional level, which includes a national team of 24 people operating four vehicles that roam the emirate around the clock; in order to provide photos for the various media within legal and social controls that maintain the privacy of community members.

He also emphasized that the issue cannot be possibly faced by a single individual or a particular institution, in the light of the growing role of information technology, where any individual can easily take a picture and post it on social networking sites. He stressed the need to intensify awareness campaigns to educate the public about the risks of such behaviors and their negative implications.

For his part, Sadiq Al Khaja tackled the role of schools’ Parent Council in enhancing awareness on the risks of traffic accidents on the individual and the society as well.

Participants at the seminar indicated that taking pictures or video footage has various aspects as well as moral and legal dimensions. Amateur photographers need to understand the impact that such pictures may have on other people and that they may offend their sanctities. They also noted that crowding at the accident’s site hinders traffic and impedes the work of security authorities.

In conclusion, participants called on the media to keep up their efforts to enhance community members’ awareness and to explicitly explain to them the gravity of the penalty  ensued by those who take camera or video footage during accidents. They also called for the need to spread and promote the legal culture among community members.  

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