‘Anonymous’ UAE investors look to takeover Daily Telegraph

‘Anonymous’ UAE investors look to takeover Daily Telegraph
Courtesy Arab News

Reports that ‘anonymous’ UAE investors, most likely connected to the ruling royal family, alongside the Barclay family, are trying to gain control of the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph. Through these ‘anonymous’ financial backers, the Barclay family are trying to regain control of the newspaper after forfeiting the heavily indebted business to Lloyds reported in June this year. 


With multiple media titans enquiring, including Daily Mail owner Lord Rothermere, it seems the UAE-based deal is most likely to succeed. To many, it may seem rather confusing that one of the largest national papers that regularly supports the ruling party that espouses the importance of nationalism and free speech, would be allowed to be sold to a foreign ruling party with historically abysmal human rights and a laundry list of free speech oppression. However, the views of UAE sovereign family have significant crossover with editors at the Daily Telegraph and the Conservative Party. They align on a number of issues: 


  1. Human Rights


The Daily Telegraph has long been a megaphone for the Conservative Parties skepticisms surrounding human rights in Britain, as can be seen by the various critical reports about the European Convention on Human Rights. Skeptical of the efficacy and validity of such ideals, the paper certainly, under UAE state part-ownership, would find sympathetic ears. Of course, the UAE has long been known for its rather conservative view on the rights of free expression. In a report on the Emirates last year, it was revealed by the UN Committee Against Torture that they were “particularly concerned about reports detailing a pattern of torture and ill-treatment against human rights defenders and persons accused of offences against state security”. It is rather worrying that a paper that has espoused at-best cynical views on the importance of human rights, could possibly be influenced by a state that blatantly disregards human life. 


  1. Oil


Despite purported transitional policies from the Emirates to renewable energies, oil is still a vital element of the collection of Emirates national revenues. Climate skepticism, or at least climate policy skepticism, has become a rather important ideological choice in the Conservative Party, this is an opinion that has been echoed by the Daily Telegraph. Though a non-uniform representation across the spectrum of contributing journalists, the Telegraph has largely established an image that champions the rhetorical notion of “rational argument”, whilst simultaneously ignoring scientific advise and evidence. The general attitude that we must maintain fossil fuel extraction to protect economic integrity, is a point that finds a particularly warm home at both the Telegraph in the UAE. For some journalists and editors, even contemporary Conservative leaders, like Sunak are "too obsessed" with Green New Deals or environmental policy. Being one of the globes largest oil extractors and the world’s highest carbon dioxide emitter per capita, this rhetorical position among western allied public discourse would be widely supported. 


  1. Islam


Whilst this topic may be slightly surprising, the attitudes espoused by both the UAE ruling family and the Daily Telegraph have significant overlap. Whilst the Daily Telegraph has, for some time, come under fire for Islamophobic pieces and the presentation of the Ummah as an existential threat, with writers like Janet Daley and David Frost expressing “fear for the future of Britain”, due to the supposed rise of Islam in the West. This thinly veiled racism, though supposedly based on the protection of western values, is expressed through islamaphobic, rather authoritarian, discussion of what acceptable religious expression is. This is an idea that is also expressed in the UAE. Whilst an outwardly Islamic collection of Emirates, the UAE is also skeptical of any presentation of Islam outside the very strict parameters established by the state. Much alike the states of the West, UAE rulers see ‘Islamists’ as a threat to established authority. Opposition to the supposed prevalence of radical Islam is a notion supported by both the Daily Telegraph and UAE authorities. 



Historical links between Telegraph stalwarts, such as editor Con Coughlin, and the UAE further indicate that this investment is likely. The political rhetoric and public opinions of writers such as Coughlin has previously received some support from UAE investors. Of course, Coughlin wrote a number of times for The National, a paper owned by Sheikh Mansour, the UAE Deputy Prime-Minister. Coughlin has long been a proponent of the client state system that characterises much of the Middle Eastern/Western coalitions since the 1950s that initially allowed ruling families to cling to power. Further, Coughlin’s outward criticisms of all iterations of the Muslim Brotherhood find particular support in governing circles in the Emirates, which sees the organisation as a threat to the Emirati status quo. 


Much of what has been discussed here illustrates that this ‘anonymous’ investment looks likely due to a number of ideological similarities and crossovers, however, the primary concern of this deal should be press freedom


The importance of press freedom to an active and healthy democracy is more than vital. The dissemination of accurate, non-biased information is the lifeblood of any democratic state, degrading press freedoms, or legitimacy through sovereign-wealth takeovers would devastate any democracy. Considering the number of issues that the ruling Conservative Party and the UAE align over, a takeover could well increase the effervescence of anti-human rights ideologies and the role of religion (particularly Islam) in Britain. For many of those in Britain or on their way to Britain, the escalation of anti-human rights rhetoric will be disastrous . For disabled people, queer people, asylum-seekers, members of commonwealth nations and many many more, the takeover of the Telegraph by the UAE sovereign wealth is yet another development that is hostile to their very existence. 


This should be of particular concern when it comes to the dangers of continued use of oil, as  we continue down what UN Secretary General has called the “highway to climate hell”. If UAE authorities, intent on maintaining it’s global economic position, takes control of a paper such as the Daily Telegraph, whilst it does not exactly support an energy transition, will likely form the basis for increasingly dangerous and environmentally disastrous policies. As the Telegraph is a stalwart of British public political opinion, it would surely have an adverse impact on Britains ability to tackle the various environmental issues we are facing. 


If authorities and regulators in the United Kingdom fail to properly check the realities of this takeover/investment, it will put the health of British press in jeopardy. If the Conservative government is so sure of the importance of nationalist values, then it should mobilise these views in order to protect British assets from sovereign wealth investment and takeovers. 


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