New York Times Article - a Few Truths

A recent article in the New York Times about Oman:

“The challenge now is to open the system and be more transparent and more accountable,” said Salim al-Mahruqi, a former Omani diplomat who runs the Culture Club, an arm of the Ministry of Culture. There is virtually no civil society in Oman; citizen organizations are all affiliated with the government. The university does not have a political science department. Only the sultan has the power to approve laws.

As the quiet calls for change spread, there are some signs that Oman is taking the familiar approach of authoritarian states in the Middle East, relying on security services and restrictive laws to silence and frighten the people. A recently amended law allows the government to prosecute anyone associated with a Web site or blog that posts anything objectionable, not just the writer.

A blogger was sentenced last month to 10 days in jail after posting on a public forum a confidential government document that called for secretly forcing a call-in radio show to stop live broadcasts and to record the show, so the government could censor the comments.

Perhaps more ominously, one political analyst said that top government positions, once filled with academics and prominent members of society, are increasingly being filled by former security officials. “They’re putting brakes now on all development,” said Ahmed al-Mukhaini, a former adviser and researcher for the State Council. “I think it is natural for them to do this because they have power, and no one is willing to give up power unless there is a civil struggle. And Omanis are not willing to have a civil struggle.”