My column last week on my recent experiences with airline travel provoked some feedback, some of which was published as ‘Letters to the Editor’ in Muscat Daily. Some of these observations were critical of my comments regarding Oman Air, and questioned why, as an expat, I had made them. Others supported my views and the right I have to write what I think. I am always grateful for any feedback: it helps me to appreciate the issues better and also to gauge the mood of the people who live in the sultanate.
There are two serious points that arise from this debate. The first is about freedom of the press. Several years ago I completed an online journalism course, which helped me to understand how to structure an article so as to be of interest to the reader. The course also provided guidelines and used best practice to demonstrate what could, and what shouldn’t, be written. A journalist should not write anything libellous (an untruth about someone that could do harm to that person) nor should he use his published word to further his own good, or for personal gain.
The recent phone hacking scandal in the UK, where members of the press were sending messages and illegally receiving private information from both celebrities and ordinary members of the public, has damaged seriously their reputation and caused a lot of heartache to many innocent people. Much of this was sensationalism, and in my opinion should be outlawed. However, I am a staunch supporter of proper and lawful investigative journalism, and I believe that the press must be allowed freedom of thought. Without this, wrongdoing and political scandal would never be uncovered. The world would become a place full of official government and corporate press releases: everyone would be bombarded only with official spin. We would live in a place run by people in marketing, not anyone else.
The second point is to do with the role of the expat in Oman. It is true that some western expats may be here just for the money, but many are not. There are those who bring very special and rare skills, needed to help the sultanate grow in physical, economic or social terms. There is a significant number of these expats who have made Oman their home, and who wish to help the country to develop in the long term. And there is no doubt this country could not function without many of the expat workers who build our roads, clean our neighbourhoods, man our hospitals and look after our children. Oman is not alone: very many countries in this world depend on workers from different states to drive their economies.
So many thanks for the feedback you provided me via Muscat Daily and the Internet. I hope to continue to provide a few thoughts each week on some day-to-day aspects of life here in the sultanate that affect us all: some of which work well, and others where there is room for improvement. And I hope that all of us who live here, whether Omani or expat, will continue to work together for the benefit and good of all. A vibrant cosmopolitan society provides, in all respects, a much richer place to live.