Viewing cable 04MUSCAT2187
Title: OMAN ONLINE: MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, PRISONS, AND

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
04MUSCAT21872004-12-15 13:31:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS MUSCAT 002187 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR NEA/ARP (TROBERTS), NEA/PPD (CWHITTLESEY), NEA/P 
(FFINVER), IIP/G/NEA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KPAO SOCI MU
SUBJECT: OMAN ONLINE: MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, PRISONS, AND 
WOMENS MAGAZINES 
 
¶1. Summary:  The Omani Internet chat room "Sablat al-Arab" -- or 
simply "Al-Sablah" -- is the liveliest and most comprehensive 
Arabic-language forum for political and social discourse in the 
country, touching on issues and personalities rarely addressed in 
the conventional media.  While not totally free, nor wholly 
reflective of Omani public opinion, Al-Sablah nevertheless offers 
a worthwhile window into the hot topics and unvarnished views of 
the day.  This edition of Oman Online contains the following 
topics: 
 
 
--- The Ministry of Information and the Omani media 
--- Human Rights Violations in Omani Prisons 
--- Censorship and Omani Women's Magazines 
 
End summary. 
 
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The Ministry Of Darkness 
------------------------ 
 
¶2. Al-Sablah members are discussing the Ministry of Information's 
decision to ban some Omani journalists and how the decision is 
impacting the Omani media environment.  Some members argued, "The 
ministry of information should be called the ministry of darkness 
for the injustices it perpetrates against Omani journalists.  The 
most frightening thing is that each year the ministry seems more 
determined to deny us the right to a free press."  Another member 
asked, "What gives the ministry of information the right to rule 
over us and to control everything we see and hear." Several 
participants offered examples of incidents that they believe 
demonstrate the harmful effect that the ministry has on press 
freedoms.  One stated, "The ministry is behind the decision to 
pull television shows.  It regularly has television presenters 
fired because their guest express opinions that are not favored 
by the government.  Another participant wrote, "There was a 
famous TV talk show hosts who discussed social issues and 
explored people's opinions about them.  His show was taken off 
the air until he `improved' its content." The discussion 
concluded with the same participant adding, "The ministry ordered 
the show's announcer banned for good when he returned for from a 
`hiatus' and did a program on poverty in Oman." 
 
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Human Rights Violations In Omani Prisons 
---------------------------------------- 
 
¶3. One Al-Sablah member began a discussion on the violation of 
human rights in Omani prisons stating, "There are major 
violations of human rights in Oman's prison's.  I have heard of 
numerous cases of police officers torturing innocent people into 
confessing to crimes that they did not commit.  Another member 
asked, "Do international organizations check or monitor the 
situation in Omani prisons?"  One member share a personal 
experience, "When I went to visit someone, thank God it was an 
official visit, I saw a long line of women, children, and old 
people waiting outside on one of the hottest days of the year 
just to enter the visitor's line with no guarantee that they 
would see their loved ones."  Another member stated, "Omani 
prisons are so bad that they cannot even meet the most basic 
human rights criteria like the right to see an attorney or the 
right to have access to family members.  If our prisons cannot 
even satisfy these requirements, we should not be surprised that 
other more egregious violations occur." 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
Do Omani Women's Magazines Escape Censorship? 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
¶4. Al-Sablah also discussed whether women's magazines are 
subjected to censorship.  One member states, "It appears women's 
magazines enjoy a free to provide their readers quality 
information on any aspect of Omani life, but other publications 
are denied this freedom."  One participant responded, "Omani 
women's magazines may seem to have more freedom but if you 
compare them with other international or regional magazines you 
can see the difference."  Another member stated, "One of the most 
widely read women's magazine in Oman has a foreign board of 
directors, foreign editors, and a foreign marketing staff.  This, 
which may explain its willingness to explore substantive issues." 
Several members speculated on the effect that censorship has in 
determining the quality of a magazine stating, "It seems women's 
magazines are successful because they largely manage to avoid the 
heavy hand of censorship."  Other participants responded by 
stating, "Perhaps the censors are less stringent on women's 
magazines because they lack understanding of the real issues 
effecting Omani women's lives and are therefore less apt to 
censor articles and information published in Omani women's 
magazines." 
 
BALTIMORE