Oman’s government sues newspaper over story about gays

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The government of Oman is suing the editor of a weekly tabloid, state news agency ONA said on Thursday, after suspending it from publication for running a story about gays in the Gulf Arab state.

Homosexuality is punishable by law in a number of majority Muslim countries, including Oman. But activists say it is generally more tolerant than 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 Ministry of Information had told him not to publish the September 5 issue, but it was not clear how long the suspension was for.

“No harm was intended by the story,” he told Reuters.

The August 29 article, splashed under the front page headline “The outsiders”, said gays 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. One expatriate argued that it was not difficult to be homosexual in Oman compared to other conservative Gulf states.

The ministry of information 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.

The paper this week issued an apology on its website signed by Saleh. “The Week places on record that there was never any intention to knowingly or unknowingly cause harm, offend or hurt the sentiments of the people,” he said, according to Dubai-based Gulf News.

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