Meanwhile, I've been meaning to post about the strange case of the ROP Speeding fines corruption allegation.
An article in one of Oman's Arabic newspapers last week accused some members of the Royal Oman Police, aka the ROP, of falsifying the assignment of speeding fines by transferring the fines in the computer system from those that did the crime to innocent drivers, enabling the errant speeders to avoid paying.
Wow, that's ground breaking stuff for an Omani newspaper, especially an Arabic one.
In response, the head of the ROP, Inspector General of Police and Customs, Lieutenant General Malik bin Sulaiman Al Ma’amari, issued a rare public statement published in both Arabic and English newspapers in Oman and in the UAE papers too, saying this would be investigated and that it was a threat to public trust in the ROP. (see below for the statement).
But in a much more interesting development, a local arabic blogger has published what appears to be an official instruction on letterhead from the Inspector General himself.
The leaked ROP documents from local blogger
The letter is to his head of public prosecutions, instructing him to:
(a) investigate the claim, and to follow the law if anyone is found to have done the illegal fine trannsfers (no matter how far it goes), and
(b) that they will be granted full access to the ROP computer systems to establish what happened.
(c) that the report has impuned the public reputation of the ROP, and that the reporter who made the claim is to be interrogated by Public Prospectutions to name his sources for the story, and if he either refuses to provide those sources or if the report is determined to be untrue, to seek prosectution against the reporter for bringing the ROP into disrepute. [Note: any readers with a more precise and professional English translation of the leaked documents would be welcomed!]
Now, bringing the reporter in for questioning is reasonable I suppose. Reporters have been jailed even in the USA for refusing to name sources under obstruction of justice charges.
But many have interpreted the leaked document as a threat to all journalists with the offense of defaming the ROP again mentioned. It brings up (again) the infamous Telecommunication Act Article 61(3) that makes it a criminal offense (punishable by jail time and/or fines) to publish anything "contrary to public order and common morals". It has also been deemed illegal by the courts to criticise in print Government officials under (again, criminal not civil) general anti-defamation laws.
However, I'd note on the positive side that if the instruction from I.G. Al Ma’amari implies that the reporter will only be punished if the report is untrue, that would be an improved interpretation on the current law. At present, the laws against disturbing 'public order', 'common morals', 'insulting' individuals (even if dead)and protecting Government officials from criticism do not really describe a defense against these broad and ill-defined offenses. In most countries a solid defense against charges of defamation is to show that the statements were true. This is NOT the case (as far as I'm aware - BlueChi?) under Omani law.
So, admitting that the reporter was OK to publish the story if the charges against the ROP are found to be true would be a big improvement!
It will be interesting to see where this story goes.
Published press Statement following the allegations of ROP corruption
Muscat: Inspector General of Police and Customs, Lieutenant General Malik Bin Sulaiman Al Ma’amari, has promised serious action against errant police officers, if they are found guilty.
“I cannot confirm or deny the case in which traffic policemen were accused of transferring violations from a person’s register to another motorist’s,” Al Ma’amari told Arabic daily Al Shabiba in response to reports in [the] Arabic daily about the alleged violations committed by police personnel.
Lt. Gen.Al Ma’amari said it was a serious issue as the trust of citizens and residents in the police apparatus was at stake.
“We are determined to severely deal with any personnel, if the incident is proved true,” he said.
He, however, said that it is up to the concerned courts to declare who is innocent and who is not, adding that some police personnel who were involved in violations and detained earlier have been duly punished as per the law.
He added “We have some cases of violations by personnel under investigation by the Public Prosecution”.