Viewing cable 05MUSCAT28
Title: OMAN ONLINE: CHATROOM CREDIBILITY, CLASS CHOICES

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT282005-01-05 10:04:00 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 000028 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI (TROBERTS), NEA/PPD (CWHITTLESEY), NEA/P 
(FFINVER), IIP/G/NEA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KPAO SOCI MU
SUBJECT: OMAN ONLINE: CHATROOM CREDIBILITY, CLASS CHOICES 
 
 
¶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: 
 
-- Call To Publish Al-Sablah Topics In Omani Newspapers 
-- Criticizing The New Educational System 
 
End summary. 
 
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Al-Sablah In The News 
--------------------- 
 
¶2. With the continued growth of Al-Sablah, including most 
recently the addition of regular contributions from two banned 
Omani journalists, there is a growing sentiment among members 
that the forum is gaining credibility and becoming a potential 
news source.  One member proposed that the forum discussions -- 
specifically those relating to politics, economics, and social 
issues -- should be published in local Omani newspapers.  Several 
contributors embraced this idea.  One member noted, "Some of the 
newspapers already deal with the issues we discuss in the forum. 
However, the issues are dealt with superficially and are often 
poorly reported."  Another offered, "Once we establish a free 
press in Oman, this kind of reporting could happen."  Other more 
skeptical members wrote, "Though we support this idea, we know 
that it is virtually impossible for the government to grant 
people, especially non-journalists, the right to put forward 
their thoughts in the news media, particularly if these 
thoughts/sentiments go against the Sultan and the Majlis."  The 
discussion concluded with the following comment: "The newspapers 
published in Oman do not belong to the Omanis.  We think they 
actually belong to other countries, because these newspapers do 
not discuss the needs, demands, or problems of the Omani people! 
It appears they would rather get news topics from other places in 
the world, instead of looking internally." 
 
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Change Isn't Always Good 
------------------------ 
 
¶3. Another topic that generated a large number of responses was 
the creation of a new educational system for Omani high schools, 
under which students choose certain subjects to prepare for 
higher education, rather than follow a predetermined curriculum. 
Initially introduced as a pilot program in a few select schools, 
it is now being implemented nationally.  Al-Sablah members 
criticized the new system, with one writer stating, "This new 
system is confusing for people who were brought up through the 
old system.  This system hasn't been fully reviewed, and they are 
already imposing it on the students, less than a year after the 
last curriculum change."  Another contributor responded, "The 
teachers and school administrators were not properly trained for 
such a sweeping change to occur so suddenly.  Now the students 
have no real resource with which to clarify any doubts or 
questions they may have about the new system."  One Sablah 
member, who also happened to be a student affected by the change, 
wrote, "We do not see the benefits of the new system to students. 
How does it really help us when it comes time for us to prepare 
for entrance into higher education?"  A respondent summed up the 
general feeling of forum members by observing, "This system is 
even faultier than the previous one.  What is the Ministry of 
Education doing to Oman?" 
 
BALTIMORE