UNCLAS MUSCAT 001397
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI, NEA/PPD, NEA/P, IIP/G/NEA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SOCI MU
SUBJECT: OMAN ONLINE: BLOTS, BROADCASTS, AND BOATS
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:
-- Confessions Of A Former Secretary
-- Al-Jazeera: The Voice Of America?
-- The Sinking Of The "Majan"
Â¶2. Colin Powell's recent interview on ABC's "20/20" received wide
coverage in al-Sablah, particularly his comment that his remarks
to the UN in February 2003 were a "blot" on his record. The vast
majority of respondents displayed either anger or suspicion about
Powell's statement. "This apology will not benefit anybody,
since a lot of innocent people have already died," wrote one
contributor. Another added, "Notwithstanding Powell's admission,
American policy has always been to destroy other countries."
Â¶3. Continued another, "This man was the one who came before the
United Nations with supposed `proof' of Saddam Hussein's WMD
program. Now he is apologizing that he was mistaken? This is
just another media trick to win people's hearts and sympathies."
Attempting to explain Powell's comments, one al-Sablah
participant noted, "The Americans are losing the war in Iraq, and
the insurgents are causing great damage to them. That is why
they are looking for opportunities to save face." The discussion
received 815 hits and 30 responses.
A Stealth VOA?
Â¶4. Spawning a topic that generated over 1,300 hits and 46
responses, one al-Sablah author declared, "Al-Jazeera is the
voice of America, because it only mimics the American reporting
on Afghan and Iraqi casualties. American losses are never
shown." Many respondents rushed to al-Jazeera's defense: "The
station is obliged to report reliable and accurate news from good
sources. The Americans are usually quick to provide up-to-the-
minute reporting, so why not use their material?" Another wrote,
"Al-Jazeera may not be as reliable as when it was first launched,
but it has still transformed news broadcasting in the Arab
Under The Sea
Â¶5. Forum members also commented on the sinking of the "Majan," a
reproduction of an Omani Bronze Age sailing vessel made out of
reeds. After a gala launching ceremony to send the crew off on a
ten-day voyage to India, the boat unfortunately took on water and
sank. "It is very sad to hear the tragic news. Everyone looked
forward to this voyage, because Omanis are known as the
historical masters of the sea," lamented one participant. Others
called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding
the sinking. Many of the 51 respondents expressed disappointment
over the loss of the "Majan," but al-Sablah members showed signs
of optimism: "We hope to overcome the defects that existed in
the boat, and try it again."