Sunday, February 14, 2010

Omani freedom of expression: Oxymoronic? Time for some definition please.

No real news today. So.

Quick one. Apropos the oxymoron of Omani Freedom of expression. What is it - if it exists?

Omani freedom of expression? Especially with respect to the internet and on-line forums, blogs, etc?

Muscati linked to a recent nice piece from my local IT lawyer of choice BlueChi*

Photo: Omani Internet star: Blue Chi

On line responsibility is real. No-where can you just say what you want. With good reason. Defamation is real, and should - rightly - be controlled by the law. In Oman, for instance, even the dead can be slandered (though not the UK/USA), and when convicted of a crime in an Omani court of law, apparently your identity still cannot be legally publicised! (which come to think of it, might help explain the lack of a court report in the local media).

And in Oman, slander remains a criminal rather than a civil issue. Why? As BlueChi mentions:

...In Oman, and many other countries, this right [UD: of freedom of expression] is restricted by some other legal principles such as defamation and breach of confidence. Defamation is generally defined as the act of spreading false information about a person which could harm that person’s reputation. This law is much more stricter in Oman than in some other places like the UK or the USA as defamation is a criminal act and not merely a civil matter. In addition to this, there is no clear requirement in the law for the statement to be false for it to be offensive, but merely requires it to have the consequence of damaging that person’s reputation.

The law in Oman is fuzzy at best, and hugely immature wrt legal precedent. It's time to clear this up, Ministry of Legal Affairs. What is legal freedom of expression these internet days? Some of the stuff being published on the Arabic and English Omani forums is waaaaay out there. What's legal? What isn't?

How does Twitter fit in?

No-one really knows.

We really need some public debate on this. And some resulting improvements to the law.

(*I used to have a link to BlueChi on the blog roll, but truth be told: he suffered heavily from an attack of professionalism, twitter addiction, and low productivity blog-wise).


  1. UD,
    There is some change in media reporting after muscat daily started. For the first time name of the bangladesh expatriate Happy Das was published in the the apex group "week" and then followed by times of oman.
    BTW in Saudi Arabia also 95 people died in floods. The oil rich country is paying SR 1 Million to relatives of those who died.

  2. Speaking of freedom of speech..... you may have noticed that Community Queer was blocked after their last post. Hah!

  3. It's strange that I read that Wiki article just before seeing this post.. someone called my blog's title oxymoron (a shy rebellious arab girl, y'know) but never mind.

    Ano.. ('hmm' in Japanese) I don't know how this question came to my mind but I'll share it: can there be kind of specific qualifications to have that freedom of speech you're talking about?

    I don't post on Arabic forums because I just hated the way they think and write and everything, and sometimes Omanis can be just too annoying and ignorant. So I'm trying now to imagine Omanis given that freedom to say whatever they want... how disturbing that would be!

    And.. I'm sorry but maybe what Nadia mentioned can be an example? You know, that blog was not considering the sacred values around it.


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