The need for honest journalism in Oman


Writing in Oman isn’t easy. Bloggers and journalists have come under the radar  for being aggressive but I can’t think of a better time in the history of Oman for journalists to shine.

The biggest changes of our times are reflected in our newspapers. Inventions, political manifestos, freedom struggle and war and all kinds of socio-economic reforms and revolutions have been captured in the stories of newspapers, big and small.

While there isn’t a “gold” standard of journalism left anywhere in the world, there is still at least a newspaper that each country has which the youth are recommended to read to improve their diction, knowledge and thinking. I wonder if Oman will ever see such a day.

Over time the ludicrousness of its poor quality reportage in Times of Oman has ceased to humor me. Without even getting into the quality of the language, I question the ethics of the editorial board of the paper.

Most of the writing in recent times are pot-stirring, conflict-escalating in nature. Does the editorial board ever verify the accuracy of the news or review the impact of their reportage?

The influence the reporting has on people is easily sensed in the Facebook comments of the Times of Oman’s posts.

fb comments on toO

The comment pictures in this post came on a post on the remittances outward from Oman (an economic concern). It contained many hateful comments making references to Omanization (a social welfare and development initiative). Of course they are related, but much of the spite in the comments can be attributed to the poorly sensationalized manner in which this news has always been reported.

Let’s comment on a popular  Times of Oman’s story- Economic Impact of Migrants and Remittances

dimwitted fucks
You dim-ducks! …Meanwhile,  HILARIOUS outrageous comments in response to inaccurate stats.

Foremost, remittances from Oman is NOT one of the highest in the world. One of the highest is what? One in five? One in ten? If the words “United States” or “Saudi Arabia” even crossed one’s mind, one wouldn’t dare to imagine so, let alone making it the headlines. It’s pretty cute however to imagine Oman is.

top-10-remittance-sending-countries-2014

Needless to say, Oman is not even in the top 10.

Since we are talking about journalism, the point here is that very few articles on this topic have bothered to stress the words “remittances as a percentage of GDP”, in which case yes, it’s pretty high in Oman.

oil-table-1
GCC Remittances 2014 from World Bank Blogpost by Dilip Ratha

The impact of immigration on Oman is well covered in the newspapers (Unemployment and loss of jobs to expats, housing, impact of remittance outward on GDP etc.). Let’s take a quick peek into the impact it has on the expat’s home countries.

remittances percent of gdp

Since ToO writes of remittances as % of GDP, let’s look at top remittance receivers as a % of GDP

Needless to say, none of the above countries (who need remittances for their survival) get any remittances from Oman. Most of the remittances from Oman are going to countries whose GDP is in trillions of USD, so it might help to write a few lines about how it is not significantly making any other country “richer”.

For example, remittances outward from Oman was about $10bn (2014) which is a negligible share in the GDP of India which is in trillions and the seventh highest in the world. Which explains many of the hypermarkets and hospitals in Oman are funded indirectly by Indian politicians.  

Some of the comments were by readers who seem to think that  expats must be treated like how they treat their housemaids- Lock them up, don’t let them eat the fridge food, impose bans, etc.

On one hand Omani Journalists are controlled and on the other hand, online racial wars sparked on newspaper pages are unmoderated.

The way these articles are written are as if to imply how unfair it is that there are significant losses to the wealth of the nation by way of remittances. If we are talking about Kohinoor diamond, yes that is unfairly stolen by the British. However, remittances are balances from legally earned remuneration for services rendered by expats (many being blue collared employees rendering laborious services under inhuman working conditions).

ae7n6pg_700b_v1

Unless it is expected that expats work like slaves without pay, it’s easy to statistically estimate the remittances outward for the forth-coming years because it is assumed at the point of hiring an expat that the salary will be remitted.

(It is pointless to analyze this data nationality wise, for those expat nationalities who don’t remit significantly will probably consume it, leading to no domestic asset growth. )

Omanization / Job Change NOC related articles

These take the cake. Times of Oman’s articles and its Facebook comments are equally amusing.

First off there is always an underlying tone in comments that seems to be hateful against immigrants, especially Indians. We are used to this global despise, by the way. What’s the big surprise? We are the 1/6th of the world’s population and the country is only 7th largest in area. We’ll spill over a bit.

However, just because 70% of the world is water doesn’t mean my room has to be flooded. Statistically speaking, it is not evenly distributed. Which is why you don’t see only 1/6th of the Oman’s population as Indians. It’s more.

Likewise, just because Oman’s GDP per capita is $21,000, it is not evenly distributed among Omanis either. Be it wealth, land and jobs- the uneven resource distribution also makes a wonderful newspaper article.

white loving omanis
I spend a lot of time in UK, therefore I am Prince William’s friend. I am a wannabe English but I like to represent Oman.

It’s incontestable that the journalism makes it sound like the Government encourages youth of Oman to sit and wait for plush CEO-like jobs, which I am sure is not the intention of any legislation. I would instead write about the number of the top positions attainable vs. the youth population of the country (which is quite high as compared to rest of the world), which actually means their competition is quite high.

I think I heard the word Omanization as early as when I was eight years old. Where are the stories on Omanization implementation?Are the jobs given to those qualified and formally recruited without use of nepotism

Journos Qualified and Paid?

While many newspapers in Oman have freelance contributors to the columns (who wouldn’t love to author a column in a newspaper?).  I hope they do have a few well paid, qualified, on the field journalists on board.

There must be a change in the management and even print media law in Oman. For some reason I think it is important to have Omani nationals as journalists, even in English.

I don’t mean privileged nationals who boast of foreign education.  Because it takes more than just google search, information and English grammar to be a good journalist. Patriotism, fearless honesty, passion, a larger sense of responsibility and connect to the community is something that lacks in many of the ToO stories.

I wonder if anyone of you agree.

Statistical Data Sources: World Bank and IMF. 

Click here to follow blog updates on Facebook

 

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “The need for honest journalism in Oman

  1. The TOO has an editor who wants the Page 1 Lead story of the day “pot-ready” by the morning, or latest, by the afternoon! No waiting until the evening for the news to develop for him. He wants the reporters to cough up the next day’s Page 1 Lead, by hook or crook, as early in the day as possible. No wonder these stories are “cooked up” with guns directed at the reporter and senior editor/s (not in literal sense; but he gets abusive, threatening them with their jobs), so they have no choice but to “make up” the story as per his whims and fancies. Reportedly, the editor doesn’t want to spend his evenings until late in the office as he has to have a daily dose of (you know what!!). There is not a single soul in the TOO newsroom who has not been racially taunted and abused by this editor. He wants one sensational story per day. It’s like a Lord’s command. The story has to flow. Otherwise….He once (and only once) wrote a news story on real estate that went as the Lead on Page 1. One can google to see how poorly written this story was, even though he is a native — he comes from the land of Shakespeare. While most of the journalists have quit since this guy came, others, who are still hanging out there, are simply waiting for a job offer. The day they get it they’ll quit as well. In the name of multi-tasking he’s made each Desk journalist double up as a web up-loader. What is interesting, however, is that this award-winning Chief Executive Editor (that’s how he describes himself!!), is not even a graduate!!. Ask him about the names of the capital cities of some of the ME countries and chances are he would flunk. He’s a manipulator who thrives in the august company of similarly disoriented semi-literate people…Period.

  2. When it comes to news most Omanis read that Arabic one… what’s it’s name???? I forget (sorry—since I can’t read it). However, many of its writers were jailed or in jail still. So authentic journalism if you want it… is very risky in Oman…;) . I stick to fashion, food, décor and “fluff” these days mostly to keep myself away from warnings:)

    1. @princess haha I m aware of that. my point is restrictive/ peace journalism need not mean sensationalized journalism with incorrect, false data. The newspapers are like “here, take your daily dose of negativity”

  3. I agree with your complaints. However, almost everyone that works at TOO is not Omani. Almost all of the reporters are expats, the web designers are expats, the accountants are expats, the editor is an expat and so on. About the only Omanis that work there are the reception and the owners. There full time Omani reporter left. I would say they are not even capable to understand whats going on in the country due to lack of Arabic speakers. The new editor fired the only Arabic speaking expat. So, the articles are written for the number of hits. Almost all of the staff has left or resigned after the new editor took over.

  4. Dear
    Excellent and mind boggling,thought provoking article.I read it thoroughly and agree with you 101 %
    it is a shame that we are wrongly pictured by these media junkies
    Ranga

  5. TOO is not an official gazette newspaper of oman. It’s just a privately owned newspaper. It’s similar to few new news channels of India who try to publish some kind of sensational news. Oman Observer is more authentic a C official.

  6. Nice article. I am sure you are aware that freedom of expression is something that come with democracies and this is Oman. So open and true journalism is not possible as often it tends to offend people and mostly powerfull &/or rich people. This point of mine is proven by Times of Oman through their journalism. Which constantly targets expatriates and show cases the expats numbers and remmitances. Most Info is not correct and they just make a huge deal about nothing cuz they know nobody will bite back. I have found out over last 2 years that Times of Oman is a news paper that only gives false information so I don’t bother reading it.
    TOO is the official English gazzette of Oman(please correct me if I am wrong). And I was just wondering if some one could file a case against them for constantly offending Indians and other Asian nationals.
    Maybe the government should seriously ask the editor of TOO what is is up to? Cuz the last time an Arabic paper wrote an article about nepotism the newspaper was suspended for a while and they almost had their editor and a senior journalist go to jail for offending a senior judge by suggesting obvious nepotism.

  7. I fully agree with you. In recent times TOO publishes on a daily basis some negative story or other. Either to discourage the expats to stay here or invest. Just go through the front page on a daily basis and list these articles on an excel file. Not a single day passes with such news. I read all the other English newspapers of oman. No such hate stories. No one knows the true stories behind such posts. I think it’s time for government to take note of such negative journalism and put an end to it. Your day should not start with such news first thing in morning. Some of the concerns in the TOO articles are genuine. But they are over doing it.

    Congratulations to the author to bring out the facts and figures. A well thought article. Keep it up.

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s