Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism

Story on homosexuality gets Omani editor tied up in lawsuit

13 September 2013

An Omani editor is in hot water after publishing an article about gays in Oman in "the local English-language weekly newspaper The Week.

Reporters Without Borders said that as of Sept. 5, the editor Sameer Al-Zakwani faces a lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Information, as does the anonymous author of the article.

The article published on August 29 is titled “The Outsiders” and tells the stories of Omanis and expatriates who identify as members of the LGBTQ community of Oman. It has elicited a strong response from the Omani Journalists Association and the Shura Council members, an assembly of 83 elected members who act as a conduit of information between the people of Oman and the government ministries.

The article, which was removed from the website three days after its publication, was replaced with a public apology stating: "The Week places on record that there was never any intention to knowingly or unknowingly cause harm, offend, or hurt the sentiments of the people with our article last week, and we deeply and sincerely regret the article. The Week issues a public apology to our readers whose opinion we respect.”

In an interview with Gulf News, an English newspaper based out of Dubai, Shura member Tawfiq Al Lawati said, “The tone of the article seemed that there was an attempt to promote the unnatural act as natural.” In a statement released by the Omani Journalists Association stated that the association “considers this a setback in the history of Omani journalism ... and calls on the authorities to suspend its [publishing] license and bring the perpetrators to justice and punish all of those who stood behind it.”

Reuters has reported that activists view Oman as more tolerant than other majority Muslim countries where being charged with being gay means facing the death penality. Homosexuality is illegal in Oman but punishment ranges from six months to three years in prison, the BBC reported.

By Christine Coester. 

Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism.
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