UNCLAS MUSCAT 001305
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI, NEA/PPD, NEA/P, IIP/G/NEA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SOCI MU
SUBJECT: OMAN ONLINE: REPORTING EVACUATIONS AND VACUOUS REPORTING
Â¶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:
-- Gaza Disengagement
-- Oman's Media
Going Through Withdrawal
Â¶2. The Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip was a popular
topic in al-Sablah, generating 1515 hits and 103 responses. Many
respondents expressed skepticism about the event; "Is this a
Palestinian victory or an Israeli trap?" wondered one member.
Another claimed, "This is another trick of Sharon's. He would
not have given up the Gaza settlements unless the Americans
promised him something bigger - in other words, more settlements
in the West Bank." One contributor cited the small number of
settlements in Gaza compared to the West Bank as "proof that
Sharon had the bigger picture in mind."
Â¶3. Not all forum participants shared this view; some felt the
evacuation validated the Palestinian resistance, while others
chose not to pick sides. "Finally, Sharon came to learn that war
does not benefit anybody, and peace and coexistence are the only
real solutions," wrote one respondent. Agreed another, "The
withdrawal should not be considered as a victory or a loss.
Rather, it should be seen as an effort by both sides to move
beyond the uselessness of killing and war."
Â¶4. Tangentially, al-Sablah members also discussed the prejudices
of the American media towards the Gaza disengagement. As one
author put it, "The American media concentrated heavily on
showing the crying and sobbing of Israeli families as they were
evacuated, while ignoring the killing of innocent Palestinians
that was going on simultaneously."
Pressing The Issue
Â¶5. A topic on press freedom allowed Al-Sablah contributors to
return to familiar territory: criticizing the Omani media. "When
will we see the birth of a free press and an objective media that
discusses issues of societal morality and government corruption?"
questioned a reader. Another complained, "The media in our
country exaggerates everything the government does...they report
that some government services are offered free of charge to
citizens, but nothing is free here." Several members singled out
the privately owned Arabic daily "al-Shabiba" for praise,
commenting that "Shabiba used to be a sports newspaper, but
recently it has tackled issues such as price increases and
homelessness in Oman."