Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Article 61

Six weeks ago, July 19th to be exact, someone with the nickname "boozallen" posted a topic titled Omantel on OmanForum. The post detailed the management restructuring that had occured in Omantel under the recommendations of their consultants, Booz Allen. The writer claimed that the promotions and appointments were not based on merit, but on the internal politics of the organization. If this was the topics only point, it would still be there on OmanForum for you to read. However, the writer went on to attack Omantel's top management in detail with allegations of nepotism, using their positions for personal gain, accumulating properties and wealth, and so on.

Without knowing the details of Oman's laws, I knew that keeping the topic on the forum would probably expose me personally, as OmanForum's administrator, to responsibility for publishing the article since similar to the case of Ali Al Rasdhi a few years ago, people who were attacked on the Sabla complained to the Public Prosecutor and the PA held the site's owner responsible.
I took a quick decision and deleted the article in full. By the morning of the 20th of July, the article had been copied on other forums, most importantly Sablat Oman (www.omania2.net).

Last night I read on the Sabla that the public prosecutor's office had called in Ali Al Zuwaidi (known online as Bin Daris), the moderator of the Sabla's politics and economy forum, for investigation charging him with responsibility under Article 61 of the Telecommunication law (
قانون الاتصالات) which makes website owners as well as moderators and administrators of forums responsible for the content published by their users. It's not clear if he's being charged or if it is really for this particular topic, although everyone assumes that it is. I would assume that if it is for the Omantel topic, then it would be because of a complaint by the company or it's CEO to the Public Prosecutor alleging slander or defamation. I am not a legal expert, I hope Blue-Chi can tell us more about the law, and whether the Public Prosecutor can begin such an investigation without the person being defamed's own complaint.

Regardless of the technicalities, I have dodged a bullet. I think I was right to delete the topic. If the article was entirely about facts, I would have allowed it. Instead, it was full of direct attacks on individuals accusing them of gross misconduct without giving any facts to support the allegations. If I had kept the topic, would I have been under investigation as well? I'm not sure. I believe that English forums and blogs aren't given importance and don't come under scrutiny like those which are in Arabic. Having said that, I wouldn't want to be the test case.

We need to know more about the law. That's for sure.

15 comments:

Blue Chi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Chi said...

Muscati, the Telecommunications Regulatory Act makes criminal offences in that Article. Criminal offences are against the state and do not require a claimant or an actual victim. Claimants can make their own civil actions along with these under any other causes of action (e.g. defamation).

When the Telecom Act was passed it only made it an punishable offense "to transmit a message while knowing that it is untrue".

The Act was amended earlier this year to include Articles 61.3 and 61.4 to punish any person who transmits any message contrary to the public order or common morals, AND to also punish any website admin who encourages or agrees to publish any messages which are contrary to the public order or common morals.

You can check the out actual text of the article here (Arabic PDF) and here (English PDF).

So yes, website owners, administrators, and supervisors can be held liable. And yes, the Public Prosecution can take action without a complaint by a victim. (But in practice they wouldn't know without someone complaining).

The law does not link the untruthfulness clause (61.1) with the website owners liability clause (61.4), but only says that admins are liable for messages which are offending under 61.3 (contrary to public order and common morals)only. However, the terms public order and common morals can be interpreted in many creative ways.

It is also unclear if knowledge (actual or constructive) is required by the administrator, it just says agreeing to or inciting - positively or negatively - the publication of these messages.

But regardless, it is quite clear that admins and moderators are liable for what is written on their websites, even if it is written by someone else.

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Undercover Dragon said...

Muscati,

You really did dodge a bullet there.

Keep us updated on the progress & result of the investigation?

illogicist said...

Dude.

I used to moderate the Politics and Economics forum at Sabla for a while. Thank god I got so sick of all the bullshit and idiots who posted there (and some of the admin, ahem), and left.

Jesus.

Just-for-laugh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Just-for-laugh said...

Sorry to say, but english sabla is by no mean, an intrest to any official.

The same articles that was behind Said Al Rashdi's arrest and trial was publish in many other little known forums, no one gave a sh!t about them, and same rules apply here, whether you deleted the article or not in english sable wouldn't make any difference.

Wake up Muscati, every one knows that english forums are way behind when it comes to real life issues that Omani people face (I mean other than flirting and gay stuff).

Heck, you would probably delete this post too, it wouldn't be a surprise and Frankly I wouldn't mind it either, because this is only meant to be read by you ;)

muscati said...

JFL - you obviously didn't read my blog post in full. What you wrote repeats the last couple of sentences of my post.

And by the way, I don't delete comments.

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