For a conservative country, where media self-censorship is
routine and people keep their opinions to themselves, the news
coverage highlights how quickly change is coming to Oman.
The fact that Oman's first civil unrest in 40 years left at least
one person dead in a northern port city here was big news. But it
was even bigger news that the English-language Muscat Daily declared
"Black Sunday in Sohar" on its front page and carried a half-page
photograph showing smoke filling the sky above a roundabout seized
For a reserved, conservative country, where media self-
censorship is routine and culture dictates that people keep their
opinions to themselves, such coverage shows how quickly change is
coming to this small Gulf nation.
"I think the fact that we were able to bring out a newspaper with
a front-page coverage of the situation in Sohar on Monday is ample
proof that Oman is a mature country and everyone here understands
that the violence was a random act by hooligans who do not represent
what Omanis really believe in," says Mohana Prabhakar, managing
editor of the Muscat Daily, which launched in 2009. "The authorities
understand that people need to know what's happening from a credible
Press laws in this sleepy sultanate on the Arabian peninsula
generally do not prohibit coverage of the government, although
people are not allowed to write about or insult the royal family.
Still Oman's newspapers typically do not cover stories that might
offend the government. In fact, journalists in this country of 2.8
million often express frustration over their inability to break real
news and provide accountable reporting of the monarchy.
Sound off: What makes Oman different from other Arab world
But in the past few days, nearly all of the major dailies in Oman
have reported on the unrest, the state-run TV station has broadcast
special programs on the demonstrations, and at least one radio
station in the capital broadcast a call-in show where people shared
their opinions about what Omanis need. The Oman News Agency also
released reports about the demonstrations, sending text messages to
some mobile phones with updates.
'Now, there is fun'
The atmosphere of increased freedom is exhilarating for
journalists who have long labored under self-censorship, as well as
students aspiring to a career in journalism.
"Really, I am surprised," says an editor at another English-
language daily in Muscat, who says that for the first time in six
years he is excited about being a journalist in Oman. "Now, there is
fun. Even though the incidents are not good, at least we are now
able to do true journalism up to an extent."
Still, he says, he is nervous, which is why he didn't want his
name or his publication's name to be used.
"Even though I am not writing anything against the nation, and I
am just doing my job sincerely, I am worried that I may drag
unnecessary attention from the authorities," says the man, who is
'Where is Al Jazeera?'
A peaceful protest that began as a sit-in this weekend at the
main roundabout to this port city turned violent by Sunday, the
start of the work week here, with several hundred protesters hurling
rocks at riot police. …