Oman protesters want information minister sacked

AFP , Thursday 10 Mar 2011

Demanding freedom of press Omani protesters call for the dismissal of the newly appointed information minister government

Omani protesters demanded the sacking of the information minister on Thursday, three days after the sultan removed ten cabinet members to try and address widening discontent in the Gulf Arab state.

Responding to calls from protesters to stop widespread corruption, Sultan Qaboos bin Said reshuffled his cabinet for the second time in a week on Monday, and removed the finance and interior ministers, among others.

But protesters said the reshuffle by Qaboos, an absolute monarch in power since 1970, did not go far enough.

"The information minister has for years suppressed freedom of the media and he should have been among those ministers who were sacked. We want him to go now,"

Mohammed Al Hakmani, one of the protesters at the headquarters of the Shura Council, told Reuters.

Popular revolts against oppressive governments and economic hardship have swept through the Arab world over the past two months, unseating entrenched leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and leading to bloody fighting in Libya.

Anti-government protests have also hit other Gulf countries, including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Yesterday, about 200 people gathered at Oman's ministry of information demanding freedom of press and a shake-up of its officials in the state-run radio and television.

"The local press must be able to report any minister who is corrupt and we don't see it happening under the current minister of information," said Faiz Al Badri, another protester in the northeast industrial town of Sohar.

Hamed Al-Rashdi has held the information portfolio for nearly a decade and kept local media under tight control.

The protests in Oman, which briefly turned violent on February 27, have been going on for two weeks. About 50 demonstrators continue to sleep in tents at Sohar's globe roundabout, opposite a large supermarket protesters had looted and burned down. 


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