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Fri 6 Sep 2013 10:23 AM

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Oman gov't sues paper over article on gays

Entire front page of The Week taken over by apology after news feature sparks outrage

Oman gov't sues paper over article on gays

The government of Oman is suing the editor of a weekly tabloid after suspending it from publication for running a story about gays in the Gulf Arab state.

The Week's publisher Saleh Zakwani said the Ministry of Information had told him not to publish the Sept. 5 issue, but it was not clear how long the suspension was for.

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

The article in The Week, which distributes 51,000 copies in the Gulf sultanate, suggested that Oman was more tolerant about people's sexuality than other Gulf states.

The article was denounced across online social networks in Oman and the newspaper was forced to apologise.

The front page of its latest edition is dominated by an apology from its publisher Salah Zakwani which read: "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 with our article last week, and we deeply and sincerely regret the article.

"The Week issues a public apology to our readers who opinion we respect."

The article in question - which is now offline - traced the story of a young gay man in the country under the headline, The Outsiders.

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."

According to the BBC, member of the influential Shura Council, Tawfiq al-Lawati, tweeted that the article was advocating homosexuality and that it suggested Oman was a safe haven for gays.

He called for the information ministry to take action against the paper for breaking the country's press code.

The maximum penalty for homosexuality in Oman is three years in prison, whereas in other Gulf states, longer sentences, flogging and even the death penalty are not unknown, the BBC added.