There was much ado about the violations of the media rights during the World Press Freedom Day which we also celebrated earlier this month. This was an opportunity when the challenges to freedom of press was discussed on all platforms. This was the moment we also realised that there were lot of misunderstandings and awareness about the Sultanate of Oman. This was evident in the media discourse and what was posted on social media. The social media was abuzz with allegations and counter allegations on the issue.
It was interesting to note that many of those who were discussing media freedom linked it with patriotism and nationalism. Many opposed the idea. However, it showed that all of them were talking almost the same thing. Sometimes they became bitter on the other side and even indulged in abuse, which cannot be justified at any cost.
Whatever we have in the media and all its practices and even these debates, it highlights that the society is strong and there is a always space available to express opinions. The Sultanate has always encouraged social participation in everything. It increases the awareness level of the people and helps in course to correct the government organisations.
We should know the fundamental law of the state as promulgated by Royal Decree No 6/2021. The wordings of Article 37 says: Freedom of press, printing and publishing is guaranteed in accordance with the terms and conditions specified by the law, and it prohibits what leads to discord, hatred or harms the security of the state or offends human dignity and rights. The Article 38 states the state is obligated to protect intellectual property of all kinds in all fields, in accordance with the law. We should see the dynamics of the freedom of expression in the context of these laws.
In one of his speeches, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik spoke of safeguarding freedom of expression in the country.
Therefore, there is no dispute over the principles on which freedom of expression is based in the Sultanate. Nobody can claim that he or she is above the basic rule and regulations of the country.
His Majesty the Sultan has already made it clear and left no room for any unambiguity. However, there can always be difference in the understanding of the logical volume and nature of criticism. We need to understand that how much criticism is healthy and beneficial for people.
When we are talking about increased criticism at this moment of time, we should realise it is because of the extraordinary health and economic condition which had implications on the life of the people. This is natural. This should be recognised. But unfortunately, some organisations and officials are unable to comprehend this extraordinary situation being faced by the world as well as this country as a factor behind resentments.
When we see such critique we should look into the real factors. One of these factors is that the media is not focussed on the issues being faced by the country.
It is not explaining the situation to the people in a proper manner after getting information from the authorities concerned. These authorities also lack plans and programmes to highlight the compelling situation to the people. They should strengthen their relations with media organisations the same as in other neighbouring countries.
There is also a difference in the manner of dissemination of information by official and private sector media as well as social media. Many are leaving official media to join private media houses or start their own social media ventures. It is a must to stop this trend and develop more confidence and trust in the official media organisations.