Riyadh Ab­dul Aziz

Muscat Daily - - NATION -

IN­EF­FEC­TIVE CEN­SOR­SHIP

Riyadh Ab­dul Aziz is a blog­ger in­ter­ested in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the web and so­ci­ety. You can email Riyadh at riyadh.aziz@apex­me­dia.co.om

The ex­tent to which the Omani gov­ern­ment can reg­u­late cul­tural con­tent is in­creas­ingly de­clin­ing as more peo­ple down­load their movies, TV shows, video games, and books from the In­ter­net.

The gov­ern­ment in Oman has strict rules for reg­u­lat­ing cer­tain cat­e­gories of cul­tural works. For ex­am­ple, books and phys­i­cal video and au­dio con­tent must be reg­is­tered and ap­proved by the gov­ern­ment in Oman be­fore they can be com­mer­cially dis­trib­uted to con­sumers in the mar­ket. Store bought for­eign mag­a­zines might be sub­ject to ‘black­marker’ cen­sor­ship in which overly ex­posed women might have clothes coloured onto them. Movies screened in lo­cal cin­e­mas are also sub­ject to rat­ing clas­si­fi­ca­tions and some scenes might be muted or com­pletely cut out if they men­tion or display con­tent that the au­thor­i­ties do not con­sider to be ap­pro­pri­ate.

How­ever, these cen­sor­ship ef­forts are no longer ca­pa­ble of re­strict­ing ac­cess to in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tent to most in­di­vid­u­als, be­cause many peo­ple nowa­days do not use the chan­nels that the Omani gov­ern­ment con­trols to ac­cess cul­tural works, and in­stead they down­load their movies,

TV shows, and video games from the In­ter­net from web­sites that are not sub­ject to Omani laws or reg­u­la­tions.

The gov­ern­ment needs to re­con­sider the time, money, and re­sources that it puts into its var­i­ous cen­sor­ship prac­tices be­cause they are no longer ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing their ob­jec­tives. The gov­ern­ment must ac­knowl­edge that hav­ing com­plete con­trol over in­for­ma­tion and cul­ture is no longer pos­si­ble in the age of the In­ter­net, and that those who wish to ac­cess banned movies, TV shows, and other cul­tural works will al­ways find a way to find them on­line.

It would make more sense for the gov­ern­ment to aban­don cer­tain cen­sor­ship mea­sures com­pletely and em­brace the free­dom that the In-

ter­net grants to mem­bers of the pub­lic. For ex­am­ple, there is no point in reg­u­lat­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of the book pub­lish­ing in­dus­try through a pre­clear­ance sys­tem that re­quires vet­ting ev­ery sin­gle book be­fore it can be pub­lished and sold in stores. Au­thors no longer need to pub­lish phys­i­cal books to share their work with the rest of the world, and users can down­load books on­line with­out any over­sight from the gov­ern­ment. The cen­sor­ship ac­tiv­i­ties in this re­gard do not achieve their ob­jec­tives and it would make more sense for the gov­ern­ment to aban­don its work in this re­gard in or­der to free pub­lic re­sources and al­low the gov­ern­ment to utilise its man­power for more use­ful and rel­e­vant projects.

Re­mov­ing cen­sor­ship in this area will also re­duce the amount of bu­reau­cracy that Omani au­thors have to go through to make their work avail­able in the phys­i­cal Omani mar­ket and would, there­fore, re­duce the time and ef­fort it takes to pub­lish books.

Re­mov­ing the cen­sor­ship sys­tem from such in­dus­tries is not the same as ex­empt­ing them from the pro­vi­sions of the law. If the law pro­hibits pub­lish­ing cer­tain types of ma­te­rial, such as porno­graphic or defam­a­tory mat­ters, those who pub­lish these ma­te­ri­als can still be held ac­count­able, but this will only be done through the ju­di­cial sys­tem where the case has to be ex­am­ined by a court that al­lows the au­thor and pub­lisher to have the chance to de­fend them­selves. This is not the same as cen­sor­ship, where the de­ci­sion to re­strict ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion is made be­hind closed doors be­fore the work is pub­lished.

The cen­sor­ship ef­forts of the gov­ern­ment no longer have an im­pact on the abil­ity of mem­bers of the pub­lic to ac­cess cul­tural works be­cause of the In­ter­net. The gov­ern­ment must ad­dress the re­al­ity of the world and re­con­sider the way it utilises its re­sources with the ob­jec­tive of pro­vid­ing ac­tual ben­e­fits to cre­ators and other mem­bers of so­ci­ety.

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