Monday, July 16, 2012

Did the Omani Government break the law by publishing the photos of the activists jailed last week?

Everyone knows that the poets, 'activists' and others that were convicted of insulting his Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, have been sentenced to between 6 months and 1 year in prison.

And everyone who writes, comments, blogs, host's a forum, or writes or edits a newspaper seems worried that more arrests are likely.
Here's the report from the UAE's Gulf News:

Muscat: Literati in Oman has reacted angrily to government-owned media’s decision to publish photographs of four writers/poets in prison uniforms after being convicted by the Primary Court in Muscat last week. Both official dailies – Arabic as well as English – published the court verdict against Hamoud Al Rashdi (writer), Ali Al Muqbali (blogger), Hamad Al Kharousi (poet) and Mohammad Al Rawahi (poet) along with their photographs in prison uniform. The government-owned Oman News Agency had carried the news along with the photographs.

Three of the activists have been sentenced to one year in prison and one to six months in prison. Fifty nine signatories, including writers, poets, journalists, lawyers, activists, teachers, theatre personalities, students, and bloggers, demanded an apology from the news agency as well as publications for publishing the picture of four convicted activists with their photograph in prison uniform.

The signatories pointed out that the decision by the official media to publish the photographs of four convicted by the court was an unprecedented one and insulting to the four intellectuals in the country. All the signatories have termed it unacceptable and threatened boycott of Oman News Agency and two newspapers unless they apologise for publishing the pictures. “They are not traitors nor are they hard-core criminals then why publish their pictures that too in prison uniforms?” demanded writer Ebrahim Saeed.

He told Gulf News that it was sad that the report also carried graphic details of the convicted activists, including their birth place, tribe, residential place etc.

“It was shocking to see the report with picture of respected Omani poets and writers in prison uniform,” Turki Al Balushi, founder of Oman’s newest online publication , told Gulf News. Yaqoub Al Harthi, lawyer for some of the detained activists, told Gulf News that there was no need to publish details and photographs after conviction of the four.

“Some of them have made a mistake,” Al Harthi agreed, saying that writing against the country’s leader on social media was a mistake but didn’t deserve the kind of publicity given to their conviction in the official media. “What was the need to publish graphic details of the activists and their photographs in prison uniform?” he questioned.

The official Arabic daily, ‘Oman’, in an edit, clarified that it had no intention of insulting the convicted activists but as a whole news package it was decided to publish the photographs. The edit also confirmed that the Omani literati had sent a memorandum condemning the publication of the photographs.

Meanwhile, Al Harthi also said that the lawyers have had no opportunity for one-on-one meetings with the detained activists. “We have had to meet our clients only in the presence of guards,” he added. He represents Esmail Al Muqbali, who has been detention for over a month. “I have met Esmail only once in court in the presence of guards,” he said worriedly. However, Al Harthi said that last Wednesday he was informed by the authorities that he can meet his clients (activists) in the central prison in Sumayil. “I am still not sure if I would get to meet who and how,” he said. Esmail was one of the first three activists to be held when they went to meet striking workers of contractors working for the oil companies.

The protest by the 400-odd Omani employees of private contractors working for oil companies was the latest protests in Oman since the first Green Rally taken out in January last year after Arab Spring sparked protest in Tunisia and Egypt. The protests in Oman were different. People demanded employment, better working condition, improved wages and removal of alleged corrupt officials. The protests in some places, mainly Sohar turned violent and fatal but overall the protests were peaceful. Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed responded positively by ordering creation of 50,000 jobs, starting unemployment allowance, making major changes to the cabinet and granting more powers to the elected Shura council.

Well done to those publicly and bravely calling for some review of this whole affair. Is someone in the Public Prosecution deliberately doing this to inflame people's opinions AGAINST HM Sultan Qaboos? Because this is really really stupid. And when something really stupid happens in Oman, it's usually some idiot in the Government, not asking HM what to do.

I can only interpret this as a knee jerk reaction from the old guard who somehow don't watch TV or surf the internet I guess. Because a few signs and some blogging that sort-of criticise HM is hardly the stuff of sedition. But strikes will certainly hurt the rich and powerful businessmen.

The problem I've always had are these incompetent fools in positions of power who already use the vast swathes of the law - a law that already makes it illegal to do or publish almost anything in reference to the Government - to then go on and wrap themselves in the protection of lese majesty laws. They wave HM's name to cover their own sins.

As a result, Oman is being unfairly dragged into the mud of international opinion that's putting us in the company of Bahrain and Saudi, and begging ignorant comparisons even with Yemen and Syria.

But then to top it off by publishing their photo and biography is quite unbelievable. They have no idea that while most Omanis, knowing only what is in the official media, may not like these protestors I don't think they want them in jail on such petty charges when we know that is not why they are really being arrested.

Overseas followers of Muscat Confidential should understand that this publishing of their pics is illegal in Oman and strongly goes against the traditions of the culture. Why to even publish the photo of a common thief is agreed to be an insult to their family (who are innocent, goes the argument) and is illegal under defamation laws.

Or it seemed to be. Because now the Government have published these photos, almost it seems as a deliberate slap in the face to them, their families and associates. Clear intimidation.

So, what I want to know is Mr Public Prosecutor, is it still illegal to publish details and photos of convicted people, and thus by implication that the Government has broken that defamation law? Or is it suddenly not illegal to do this now, so Muscat Daily can now have a Court Report, complete with photos and full names?

Or is it perhaps that you just make this shit up as you go ? Because you are so used to doing what you like, arresting who you like, bullying who you like, always having your way because you're so sure you're in the right, and because you're the Government, you're untouchable by definition?

And denying them legal advice achieves what, exactly?

Does no-one in this abysmal mis-handled cock-up of a response (to a few people making a nuisance of themselves to the Oligarchs) even notice that the Government are breaking the very same law and tradition that captures the moral spirit of the laws they are at the same time using to put some harmless poets and shit-stirrers in jail for a year?? [slap forehead]

His Majesty must move to more rapidly develop a constitutional monarchy, with an administration founded on the generation born after he came to power. There needs to be a significantly greater separation between His Majesty and Government, so lese majesty laws (which within reason seem perfectly OK to me as they apply to a Sovereign) can be removed from restricting public protests and discussions on Government and policy.

The system could be inspired by that of Jersey, one of the Sandwich Islands, ruled by the Sovereign of the British Isles for more than 900 years, with an appointed Governor and head of Parliament with elected members.

Which is ironic, because the current massive over-reaction to a few Omanis with the balls to complain are reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth alright, except it's Queen Elizabeth the first. You don't see Lizzie throwing people in the Tower of London for such petty nonsense, it's beneath her to stoop to such things.

Time is running out Sultan Qaboos. Because these other idiots all seem to think that they can behave as if they are the Sultan, throwing their weight around and telling people what to say, what to do, if it doesn't please them. Oman is increasing full of little dictators who abuse the system of governance to put these draconian laws between themselves and the people.

Oh, and where are the corruption investigations? Or is the official position that there isn't any? Because HM has nothing to fear from the people, as we all know. It's only incompetent Ministers and their minions who need worry about them I guess. And that's what this is really all about, isn't it Mr. Public Prosecution?


  1. This is not the first time that photos and names have been published.

    Last year, soon after the Sohar disturbances, the Muscat Daily reported that the ring leaders had been identified and published decent sized photos of them along with their names and where they came from. At the time, I thought this was amazing as residents of Oman are usually not even allowed to know the identity of a convicted rapist or paedophile.

    Alice in Lalaland

  2. Muscat Daily is nonsense, they print year old hoax news! Copy paste from the internet.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Ahhhh. Its good to see you back on track Mr Dragon. More please.

    Willie Dryer

  5. Bah! An easy one this... Kill f*%"0*g the poets! Easy. All will be well. The Sun will be back in his heaven. Hallelujah! Alhamdulillah!! More cider vicar? Onwards and upwards eh? Yes, yes. God is good. Isn't he? Now. Where are those pesky dancing boys? ... And, err, peel me a grape Adul. There's a good chap. No need to fret. Oh, and give 'em a firework display. That will calm 'em down for another year or so.

    The African Queen

  6. Perhaps some royal clemency for Ramadan?

  7. I suspect that they will be subjected to 'Emirati custom' and 'deported' to a country they don't even belong to!

  8. Last time I checked, Oman is a dictatorship.As far as dictatorships go, it's pretty benevolent.

    I'd say anybody who publishes anything against the government is playing with fire. There is a lesson to be learned here.

  9. i don't know why you mind a legal procedures done in a country for some offenders. Oman has no history of people insulting others publicly, however we saw some recently. this is not far a way from Omanis values. I think publishing photos is a type of new modern journalism where transparency should be practiced.

  10. I am not sure where else to send this information to, so I will let you have it. An Omani board member for Oman air has threatened to stop ALL staff travel tickets for Oman Air employees and their families. He showed up to a meeting, of the bosses of each department, with a lawyer. His reason? Well he had booked business for himself and economy for his son. An employee had booked a staff travel ticket in business class and received the last seat in that class. The man's son, only having an economy ticket was naturally sent to sit in economy. The board member was furious and had naturally assumed his son would be given wasta and moved to business class with Dear Old Dad. So now all are threatened. If his son can't force you out of your business class seat then he will stop everyone! I am home where I can post pretty much whatever I like so I figured I should get this said outside of Oman, before I go back.

  11. Dear Undercover Mouse, Are you well? Or, are you a deceased timorous Beastie?


  12. Mr Dragon, are you ill? Or, have you been compromised?


  13. Has the dragon finally been slayed??

  14. They are at it again in Liwa.


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