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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04MUSCAT2160 2004-12-13 07:56:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Muscat
Cable title:  

CHALLENGE FOR NEW JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION:

Tags:   PHUM SOCI AORC PGOV MU 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 002160 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

NEA/ARPI, DRL/CRA (DDOLAN), DRL/PHD, NEA/PPD, NEA/PI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI AORC PGOV MU
SUBJECT: CHALLENGE FOR NEW JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION:

-------
SUMMARY
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1. (U) The Ministry of Social Development has approved the
registration of Oman's first journalism association. Under
the purview of the Ministry of Information (MOI), the
association has been received with considerable skepticism by
journalists. Its purpose is to strengthen recognition and
respect of Omani journalists abroad, as well as to provide
training seminars and advocacy services at home. The
association will be formally launched in March by its new
chairman and close MOI ally, Ali bin Khalfan al-Jabri. End
summary.



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BIG HELP OR BIG BROTHER?


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2. (U) On November 22, the Ministry of Social Development
approved the registration application of Oman's first
journalists' association. The Omani Journalist Association
(OJA), which took 2 years to win government approval, is
currently headed by Ali bin Khalfan al-Jabri, a close friend
and associate of Information Minister Hamad al-Rashdi. In a
meeting on December 6 with PAO and Poloff, al-Jabri said that
the formation of the OJA is a necessary step to promote the
professional recognition and integrity of Omani journalists
abroad, as well as to advocate on behalf of journalists in
Oman. To illustrate his point, Al-Jabri said that the
association had already been contacted about assisting an
unnamed Omani journalist who was having problems with a local
paper. The 12 appointed members of the board of directors
meet weekly to discuss the OJA's course of action now that it
has been approved. Issues include where to site its offices,
establishing sustainable funding and membership, and
publishing the OJA's mission and objectives.



3. (U) Mr. al-Jabri, in conjunction with his Marketing
Manager Al-Wadhah al-Mawali, said that there has been
considerable interest in the development of the organization
and that its activities are being closely watched by
"others." The association has also received calls from
journalists, students, and teachers interested in obtaining
membership. Al-Jabri said that while the details of
membership costs and privileges are not yet determined,
membership will be available to students, professors, and all
journalists working in Oman. With the grand launch in March,
the OJA expects a significant increase from its current
membership of fifty. In an effort to grow regionally,
al-Jabri said that the OJA hopes to work with Egyptian and
Kuwaiti journalists' associations as well as reach out to
membership in larger international journalists' organizations.



4. (U) In an interview with a UAE newspaper, former IV
participant and journalist Rafia Salman Al Talei opined that
the association was "toothless" and charged that "none of the
so-called NGOs here are working independently and the latest
association will be another such institution. . . it has
taken more than three years for the government to accept a
request to register (it). . . it won't be an independent
body."



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COMMENT: HORNS OF A DILEMMA


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5. (SBU) The OJA faces the unenviable challenge of trying to
fulfill two widely divergent aspirations. To the government,
and under Omani law, the association is supposed to
facilitate communication between the Information Ministry and
the journalistic profession (primarily from the former to the
latter), and be a "non-governmental" representative of Oman
at international fora. Journalists, however, want an
association that can win them greater independence. The
degree to which the OJA can appease both perspectives will
likely determine how enduring and meaningful the association
will be.



6. (SBU) The appointment of al-Jabri, a well-known government
newscaster and close, personal friend of the Minister of
Information has gotten OJA off to bad start with journalists.
Several sources termed al-Jabri the Minister's "personal
bidder." Al-Jabri counters these criticisms by reminding
journalists that a new board of directors will be elected by
members next year.



7. (SBU) Contributors to Oman's Internet message board
Al-Sabla are also less than inspired by the association's
promises, suggesting instead that the formation of the OJA is
"just for show" as the Omani press attempts to counter recent
complaints of censorship and journalist bans. Journalists
also argue that an association at the beck-and-call of the
Ministry of Information is simply another mechanism of
controlling the press, rather than advocating on its behalf.
BALTIMORE