Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1157
Title: OMAN ONLINE: MORE PARDONS, LESS PAPERS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT11572005-07-21 06:29:00 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 001157 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI, NEA/PPD, NEA/P, IIP/G/NEA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KPAO SOCI MU
SUBJECT: OMAN ONLINE: MORE PARDONS, LESS PAPERS 
 
REF: MUSCAT 972 
 
¶1. Summary:  The Omani Internet message boards "al-Sablah" and 
"al-Majarra" are the liveliest and most comprehensive Arabic- 
language fora 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, these popular sites 
nevertheless offer a worthwhile window into the hot topics and 
unvarnished views of the day.  This edition of Oman Online 
contains the following topics: 
 
-- More Pardons From The Sultan 
-- A Proposal For An "Opposition" Magazine 
-- Which Is The Best Newspaper in Oman? 
 
End summary. 
 
--------------- 
To Err Is Human 
--------------- 
 
¶2. Coming on the heels of last month's royal pardons (reftel), 
the July 19 news of the Sultan's pardoning of 369 more prisoners 
(septel) elicited mainly laudatory responses from al-Sablah 
members.  "We congratulate the families of the arrestees, and all 
Omanis, for this gift from His Majesty" and "Long live our wise 
leader, who is saving the country from internal conflicts" were 
two commonly expressed sentiments.  One member hoped that "the 
secret organization file should be closed for good, so the 
 
SIPDIS 
security agencies can no longer use it as an excuse to arrest 
people." 
 
------------------------------------- 
Plenty of Ammunition In This Magazine 
------------------------------------- 
 
¶3. Al-Sablah participants took a jaundiced view of a report 
alleging that the Ministry of Information intends to publish an 
"opposition" magazine, focusing on controversial topics within 
Omani society.  "This is just one more instance of the Ministry 
of Information lamely trying to show that they allow freedom of 
expression," bemoaned one observer.  Another declared, "The media 
in our country is a lie.  This new magazine is a hopeless case, 
because it will be controlled by the Ministry of Information and 
it will only represent the government's position."  Never missing 
an opportunity to involve the United States, one participant 
claimed, "The magazine would just be an attempt to show the 
Americans that we are democratic, and that we allow others to 
express their opinions freely." 
 
-------------------------------- 
All The News That's Fit To Print 
-------------------------------- 
 
¶4. A similar contempt for Oman's existing print media surfaced 
when one al-Sablah member asked, "Which is the best newspaper in 
Oman?"  Among the overwhelmingly negative responses, several 
referenced the lack of variety: "All the newspapers have the same 
ideology.  They only publish the government line; all we get is 
what the government wants us to know."  Others added, "Why read 
the Omani papers?  Their `reports' are usually weeks behind the 
regional newspapers." 
 
¶5. Wrote one wag, "I really like the design and graphics of the 
newspapers, especially the large advertisements that take up the 
space of real news."  At least one participant did try to answer 
the original question: "Actually I like `al-Watan' [a privately- 
owned, widely-read Arabic daily] because they are more objective 
and capture the feeling of the street.  For example, they 
describe Israelis as Zionists, and Palestinians as martyrs 
instead of suicide bombers." 
 
BALTIMORE