MUSCAT/BEIRUT: The government of Oman is suing the editor of a weekly tabloid, state news agency ONA said Thursday, after suspending it from publication for running a story depicting the Gulf state as more tolerant toward homosexuality than its neighbors.
Homosexuality is punishable by law in a number of majority Muslim countries, including Oman. But activists say it is generally more tolerant than in states like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen where those charged with being gay face the death penalty.
The Week’s publisher Saleh Zakwani said the Information Ministry had told him not to publish the Sept. 5 issue, but it was not clear how long the suspension would last. “No harm was intended by the story,” he told Reuters.
The Aug. 29 article, splashed under the front page headline “The outsiders,” said homosexuals in Oman were “finding new ways to live life the way they want to.”
It included a number of interviews with gay men and women, including Omanis and expatriates. “It is not hard to find men to date here in Oman if you know where to look,” Haitham, one of those interviewed, told the Week. One expatriate argued that it was not difficult to be homosexual in Oman compared to other conservative Gulf states.
The Information Ministry said in a statement that it did not tolerate “harming society, its principles, religion, values, the dignity of its people or public manners through publishing what goes against media laws and regulations.”
Saleh said he had no details of the lawsuit, which was filed by the ministry against the editor-in-chief, Sameer Zakwani, and the article’s author, who had not been named.
In its latest publication, the Week ran an apology across its front page. “There was never any intention to knowingly or unknowingly cause harm, offend or hurt the sentiments of the people with our article last week,” it said.