'Staff must respect Middle East culture'

A Middle East magazine publisher that employs hundreds of Western journalists has said it has always warned staff about staying on the right side of local laws following the arrest of an employee after a beach incident.

ITP Publishing – which prints around 60 B2B and consumer magazines, including English-language Arab editions of Harper’s Bazaar and Time Out – has dismissed British sales executive Michelle Palmer after she was arrested for a number of public order offences.

Palmer, who has worked for ITP for three years, faces up to six years in prison after being involved in an alleged illicit liaison on a Dubai beach. Her arrest highlights the culture clash between Western media workers in the United Arab Emirates and the native Muslim population.

An ITP Publishing spokesman said that although the company provided guidance to all of its 600 staff – who come from 20 countries – it was the responsibility of each individual employee to respect the local culture.

‘Dubai, and the UAE provide a tolerant, safe, liberal and rewarding environment for millions of expats,’the spokesman told Press Gazette.

‘ITP expects its staff to behave appropriately and properly in a manner consistent with the moral and cultural values of the society in which we all live and work.

‘The company gives its staff clear guidance regarding what is and what is not acceptable in the UAE environment when they join the company.”

ITP is one of a number of foreign-owned companies to capitalise on the Middle East’s burgeoning media scene. The group was founded in 1987 and is chaired by former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil.

Earlier this year, the former Daily Telegraph editor Martin Newland launched an English-language daily newspaper in Abu Dhabi. The National employs more than 200 journalists from Britain, Canada, the USA and South Africa.

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