Riyadh Abdul Aziz
Riyadh Abdul Aziz is a blogger interested in the relationship between the web and society. You can email Riyadh at email@example.com
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.