Social media law will not limit free speech: Shura Council Member

Energy Monday 25/February/2019 09:58 AM
By: Times News Service
Social media law will not limit free speech: Shura Council Member

Muscat: A new law currently being prepared by the Shura Council will not limit a person's ability to say his or her opinion, according to Shura Council Member H.E Ali al Maashani, head of the Media and Culture committee at the Shura Council.

The Shura Council member said to Times of Oman, "We are not thinking of limiting a person's ability to say their opinion, given that the opinion is headed in a positive direction. We are only talking about the ethical implications of attacking either a private person, the country, or a group of individuals. As for criticizing an institution or a person or a specific situation, we are not thinking of limiting that."

Another example of how the law would work, according to him, is public organisations being able to complain directly against those who spread rumors against them on social media.

"For example, a rumour comes out from a personal source regarding an organisation. When that rumour gains traction, the organisation can then go and direct their legal attention towards the source of the rumour," he added.

Currently, Oman's Penal Law contains legislation designed to protect individuals from personal attacks. According to article 327, direct verbal abuse can lead to a jail term between 10 days and six months and/or a fine between OMR200-500. These punishments increase if the abuse is because of an employee's public position.

Article 326 of the law prohibits falsely accusing someone of an event that lowers their social standing, with the threat of an OMR500-1000 fine and a jail term between a month and a year in length.

Furthermore, publishing news or images that reflects badly on the private life of an individual or family is punishable with no less than one month in prison, and with a maximum of one year.

All of these crimes are legally binding if the victim files a complaint, with the exception of abusing a public employee.

According to His Excellency, organisations can protect themselves from abuse and false rumours regarding their work by hiring a spokesperson. "We saw an example at Sohar Hospital, where a rumour arose regarding their work and they refuted it. In that case, a spokesperson refuted the rumor. We'd like to see more of that."