Sunday, September 08, 2013

Good morning everyone. I returned to Oman late last week to learn about the now internationally picked up story about the weekly tabloid, The Week's August 29th Article, The Outsiders (linked to here, if you're easily offended.... dont read it - thanks to Oman Coast for hosting the article). Personally I thought it was a well-written and balanced article, it appears many did not.

Anyone that has lived here in the Sultanate would not be surprised to learn that there are homosexual people that live here, and if they are, then they're possibly living very sheltered lives. In a society such as the one here in Oman, it is officially not tolerated. This has been reinforced by the news last Thursday that the Government of Oman is actually suing the editor-in-chief, Sameer Zakwani, and the article's author, who had not been named.

Rumour has it that the author was an Indian journalist, who has since legged it back home - wise move. I've also heard the author is Omani, it's hard to get the details given the obvious attention it's been getting.

It's disappointing to see this sort of reaction from the Government, but hardly surprising. The Sultanate has little choice but to enforce it's laws (regardless of whether people agree with them or not) because what's the alternative? Be the Muslim state that tolerates homosexuals? I couldn't care less what peoples sexual orientation is, and to be frank, I suspect most people don't care either. But this front page news story from the nations largest English language weekly may been a bit ill-conceived.

Presumably in an effort to actually do a bit of journalism, and report on the reality that is here in Oman, The Week were looking for a big story and it's back fired. Last weeks edition was scrapped, and it's not clear how long the ban on The Week will last. I'm sure we'll see them back to business soon.

I say ill-conceived because by throwing a big spot-light on this, it has only served to poke the beast, and I suspect now all other journalists will be in fear about writing anything slightly controversial. I suspect we'll see lots of fluff about the weather and how fabulous everything is. Did you know that the Sultanate of Oman has the world's 3rd best roads? Neither did I, shame the author didn't chose to highlight the fact that people continue to drive like idiots here then (front page of today's Oman Observer).

 More very soon!

le fin.


Regina Phalange said...

In 10 years or so this will be looked back on as a turning point in journalistic freedom, at least I hope so because otherwise it will simply go down as yet another archaic decision that further drags progress behind it like an anchor.
All this talk of a modern country is increasingly hot-air hyperbole in light of recent headlines. And outlets such as the BBC are picking up on them.
The higher up the tree a monkey climbs, the more you can see of it's ass.

Kifah said...


Welcome back to Sunny Muscat.

A few comments:

1. The Article was not well written, it was actually quite shallow and immature. Especially the casual reference to an 8 year old having a sexual encounter with a relative of unknown age.

2. I dont really care what two consenting adults do in their own privacy and nor do must people.

3. The week's editor in chief is Saleh Alzakwan & Journalist Indian.

4. I suspect that the government was going to wait this out and just let the story die out, they intentionally just suspended the paper. But there was public pressure and outcry (thanks to social media) and they escalated the matter. I think they will get out with a slap on the wrist or a fine at the most (it's more for the government to say "hey look we did something, we responded to your demands).

5. While Oman is tolerate of homosexuals (maybe more in the past), a lot of homophobia exists. Not to mention, recent wave of self-righteous overly zealous and religious. All this and more contributed to blowing things over proportion.

Rachel said...

Kifah, if you read the article, you'll read that SAMEER Zakhwani is the Editor-in-Chief of The Week.

SALEH Zakhwani is the Owner of Apex Publishing, which is the owner of The Week.

Susan said...

I don't think it was very well written, particularly the child molestation part. If I were introducing the gay scene in Oman (yes, we've got tons of gay people... Omanis need to get over it), I'd start with a general overview without going into details of how dating takes place. I wouldn't put it on the front page of the paper either. Baby steps....

Anonymous said...

The score is in response to the question "How would you assess roads in your country?"
Presumably answered/scored by whoever attended the World Economic Forum.

Terry said...

The article wasn't well written, but this is far from the point trying to be made.

Journalistic freedom in Oman just hit a road block. Only a few days before this I was complaining how things happening in Oman are reported more by a UAE based news outlet than any Oman based publishers. Not to mention the complete lack of any sort of worthy investigative journalism.

I'm not sure what they're doing at the Oman Journalists Association, but it probably has nothing to do with Journalism. Just a few guys getting together for pointless chit-chat. They seem to be really proud of themselves in this 'achievement' though. Screwing over fellow journalists.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of religion some men just dig other men, and whilst it's not my cup of tea either ideology cannot trump biology.

Let's face it, with Syria, Egypt, et al. all kicking off and the US preparing to free more people from this earthly existence with high explosives, we really do have bigger things to be concerned about than whether Dave likes that...

PS. Regina, nice use of African proverbs, more please.

TI3GIB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TI3GIB said...

So The Week's off for a few weeks. Everyone's bit concerned at where they're going to get their pothole update from. More to the issue at hand, I suggest if the writer or editor wanted to break out of the Omani journalism mould, this certainly wasn't the way to do it. I don't understand how no one is talking about that and instead focus on content, merit and repercussion alone. Let's not veneer the sheer stupidity of that decision. Me, being the, like, suh-totally-maverick-crazyperson that I am, venture to say that there are a few 'public' concern that ought to have taken precedent over a private matter like this. But then I suppose, a stupid decision isn't good reason to board the place up, or even bad quality.

Before anyone gets 'disappointed' at anything or saying that 'we've hit a road block', let's first develop something worthy of disappointment. Journalism here is too eager to point fingers, than to develop any sort of credible platform thats effective in stirring the public temperment or jumpstarting public engagement or doing any good. And it hasn't, or at least not well. Something's jammed, and I'm about two blogger comments away from going incendiary on the next person who tosses a 'freedom of speech' or 'democratic values' spiel into the mix.

But if all we're interested in knowing is why this happened, it's simply because the public persecution acted because that's what the public wanted. Everyone's claims a democratic deficit and calls for more responsive (Who said reactive ?) politics, and this is what ends up happening. Sleep in that bed.

But, seriously, how about them roads ?

Blah Blah said...

Having been a journo type person here, I can assure you that journalists here are very busy arranging which press conferences to go to. That being the ones that give them the best kickback for attending- crisp 50 Rial notes from a Ministry perchance?
But who can blame them, because the editors publish the press releases that come from their most profitable advertisers.
If you want to find out what's going on in Muscat, read the Gulf News. If you want to know what the events team of Bank Muscat did in Mintrib or how happy the Nawras happy messengers have made a car park full of school kids in Bid-Bid then open a local newspaper.
Then again, it's difficult to type objective content when your right hand is scratching your own nuts.

Anonymous said...

Oman has reached it's tipping point.

Omani's have reached their tipping point.

The divide between being a back wood backward
country bumpkin state, and being a state that has Universities, an Opera House, cinemas, art galleries is now clear.

Censorship has to cease.
Laws and standards can still be maintained very easily.

Omani's are seen as back water, backward and so forth ..either because they don't know what is really going on in the world or they are too afraid and conditioned to talk about it.

Sadly, Oman is becoming a bit of an embarassement in terms of development and education. You can build as many Universities and Colleges as your liquified gas money can buy you.

But you can buy intellectual progress, nor true long term development.

As long as Omani's live in the 'dark ages' in term of information technology, slow internet (that's is done intentionally BY THE WAY), poor health care, censorship on ideas and thoughts.....then Oman will continue to slip backward to the Islamic calendar and stay 500 years in the past.

Omani graduates will not be in demand world wide, or even in Dubai or elsewhere in the Gulf.

Omani's won't know how to cope with addictions in their own families, STD's, and so on.

Omani's will be always dependent on the sinking ship the TITANIC..with their hands outstretched...'help me...'

Bored expats, will stay a while, think it too backward or too slow to stay longterm (other than Indians and Filipinos who have no other options in this world)..but the good talented expats will by people who have themselves 3rd world educations to take care of Oman...

what a disaster...

Oman...time has come. The lights are on..but is anybody home ???

Undercover Dragon said...

Nice to see you back safe mm.

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