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Abu Dhabi launches English language newspaper

  • Story Highlights
  • "The National" the Abu Dhabi-based national broadsheet launched Wednesday
  • Martin Newland, former Daily Telegraph editor is the paper's Editor-in-chief
  • It is owned by the Abu Dhabi government and backed by Sheikh Mohammed
  • The Emirates already has five daily newspapers catering to English speakers
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(CNN) -- On Wednesday, at the glittering Emirates Palace hotel, in front of a who's who of the United Arab Emirates, the front page of the world's newest daily broadsheet was unveiled.

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The world's newest daily newspaper

Editor-in-chief, Martin Newland, former editor of the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph newspaper, showed the new Abu Dhabi paper off to an audience which included Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.

"The National" has been designed in the style of a British broadsheet and aims to give the capital of the United Arab Emirates a public voice.

It has an editorial team of 200 -- including a host of former Daily Telegraph employees hired by Newland -- which is the largest working on an English-language daily in the Middle East.

Among Newland's new staff is Bill Spindle, former corporate finance editor of the Wall Street Journal, who is business editor.

Former Daily Telegraph Paris correspondent, Colin Randall is executive editor of the paper.

"Abu Dhabi is about to have a national daily newspaper, and I hope and believe that it will be a very good one," he wrote on his blog francesalut.com in the run up to the launch.

The paper's breadth of coverage is indeed impressive -- the first edition included 20 pages of business, arts, news and sport.

"It is a late stage of my career to be participating, for the first time in the thrill of launching a national newspaper.

"If truth be told, it is also a late stage in the career of newspapers themselves for an event of this kind to be occurring. I cannot imagine many parts of the world where anyone would think of embarking on such a project," Randall continues.

"The National" is owned by an investment fund controlled by the Abu Dhabi government -- one of the richest governments in the world -- and it is yet another expression of the ambitiousness of the federation's plans for the future.

In spite of the grandness of the launch, there is no obvious business case for a new daily in Abu Dhabi. Fewer than 500,000 adults with English as their mother tongue live in Emirate and there are already five daily newspapers catering for this section of the market.

In fact, the most obvious gap in the market is for a popular newspaper aimed at Hindi speakers.

Press freedom is another issue that is lurking under "The National's" shiny new veneer. In the run up to the launch, editor Newland glossed over the issue of editorial freedoms in the state-owned broadsheet.

Sheikh Mohammed's presence at the launch is a sign of his backing and insiders say he wants a newspaper that reports on a federation-wide basis and is prepared to challenge official complacency wherever it exists.

But it is impossible to say that "The National" is independent. A paper that can fearlessly criticize government policy in the federation is still a long way in the future. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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