Oman





Oman

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Sultanate of Oman
Region (Map name): Middle East
Population: 2,533,389
Language(s): Arabic, English,Baluchi, Urdu
Literacy rate: 80%

Oman ( Uman ) is situated in the southeastern portion of the Arabian Peninsula next to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is an independent sultanate ( Sultanat Uman ) that has considerably upgraded its economic and social situation through various developments since a 1970 peaceful coup established Qa-boos bin Said al Said as sultan in place of his father. In light of its interest in technological progress and its historical relationship with Great Britain, Oman utilizes Western advisors in an attempt to provide itself with a buffer against its larger, better funded and historically aggressive neighbors.

Freedom of the press is guaranteed by law in Article 31 of Oman's Basic Statute. However, the exact wording leaves room for interpretations that can be antithetical to a free press, i.e., matter "leading to discord, harming the State's security or abusing human dignity or rights is prohibited."

There are six daily newspapers, four in Arabic and two in English. Those printed in Arabic are: Khaleej Times, Oman Daily Newspaper (with a circulation of 15,560), Ash-Shabibah, and Al-Watan (The Nation, 32,500). Those published in English are: The Oman Daily Observer (22,000;) and the Times of Oman (15,000).

There are approximately 20 periodicals published in the sultanate, a number of them by sections of the government. They include: Jund Oman (Soldiers of Oman, a monthly magazine of the Ministry of Defence), Al-Ghorfa (Oman Commerce, a bi-monthly with a circulation of 10,500 and published by Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Al-Omaniya (Omani Woman, a monthly with a circulation of 10,500), Oman Today (a bimonthly with a circulation of 20,000 that covers leisure and sports), Al-'Akidah (The Faith, a weekly with a circulation of 10,000 covering politics), Al-Mazari' (Farms, a weekly journal of the ministries of Agriculture and Fish-eries, and of Petroleum and Minerals).

Radio and television are overseen by the Ministry of Information. A director general of Radio and Television reports to the Minister of Information. The director general is responsible for complete oversight of operations. Radio and television media are entirely government funded; advertising is prohibited.

Radio Sultanate of Oman and Radio Salalah were both founded in 1970. Radio development was especially important to Oman in the 1970s to counteract anti-Omani propaganda being broadcast from Marxist South Yemen. In 2000 there were approximately 1.4 million radios in the country being broadcast to from three AM, nine FM, and two shortwave stations, and typically receiving broadcasts in Arabic, English and Dhofari. While Oman has no particular aspersions to become a broadcasting powerhouse in the region, programming is available in a few ways to outsiders. Those interested can listen to Omani radio utilizing either an Omani satellite channel on ARABSAT or via the Internet. In the future broadcasts may also be available on Egypt's NILESAT. INTELSAT also is available to Oman.

Omani television is as prevalent as radio, with about 1.4 million television sets reported in 2000. There are stations operating in both Muscat and Salalah, with 117 other television transmitters, many of them solar powered, throughout the country. The nodes of this network are connected by satellite. Local programming in Oman has the potential for greater influence than in some of the other Arab region states because the positioning of major cities in the state does not conflict with any other broadcast signals; there is no competition. The competition present comes from home videos and satellite television signals (satellite dish ownership is legally sanctioned). Omani state television imports less Western programming than some other Gulf states and tends to emphasize regionally contextual programming concerning faith, history, politics, social life and the like.

The British Broadcasting Company utilizes Masirah Island off the coast of Oman for a medium-wave relay station to boost the signal for its Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Pashtu, English and Urdu programming. The eventual plan is to move the relay station from the island to the Omani mainland. All of this is suggests an historical and continuing relationship between Oman and Great Britain.

Oman began Internet service in 1997 and recently boasted 50,000 users. Reporters Sans Frontieres notes that while the Internet has been a positive move for Oman, Web sites at times are blocked by OmanTelecommunications (OmanTel) since they are perceived as incompatible with Islam and/or too Westernized. Due to the government's wish to maintain control over this medium, there remains one Internet service provider for the entire country.

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Clint B. Thomas Baldwin

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