Popular Arabic Omani discussion board Al Al Harahhas been blocked for the past week or so upon the order of the Public Prosecution in response to Al Hara’s failure to provide the Public Prosecution with the IP details of a member who has posted defamatory material of a number of individuals in the past.
I am not aware of the specifics of the content that was posted on Al Harah, but Omani newspaper Al Zaman has claimed that this content is of a political nature and that is why Al Harah has been blocked, the Public Prosecution came out with a Press Release today claiming that the matter is exclusively based on a criminal incident that with no political aspect.
It seems that the Public Prosecution has directly communicated with the administrators of Al Harah asking them to disclose the IP details of the person who posted the offensive material. Al Harah claims that it does not have the IP details of that person due to the fact that the software they use retains IP details for a certain period of time only after which they get deleted. Al Haram claims that it tried helping the Public Prosecution in reaching this person by sending a private message to him through their forum, but he has not responded.
According to the Public Prosecution the webmaster is under an obligation to provide them with all the details they want as Article 27 of the Criminal Procedure Law provides that anyone asked by the officers of a judicial capacity as part of their duties to help in capturing suspects to preventing their escape must provide that help.
The Public Prosecution claims that it could not identify the actual person who runs Al Harah website and the administrators of the website have refused to provide these details to the Public Prosecution and apparently that is why a judicial order was made to temporarily block the website until all the necessary information are provided.
The Public Prosecution is stating that any person who has suffered damage from this decision may complain to the competent court.
It is worth noting that the WHOIS records of Al Harah are protected, so the details of the domain name registrant are not public.
I am not sure to what extent Al Harah has cooperated with the Public Prosecution before the decision was made to ban the website, but I am not sure how banning the website can help in the disclosure of the real owner of the website or the IP details of those who posted the defamatory content. I am not an expert on criminal procedures, but this cannot be said to protect the evidence as the website can still be accessed or deleted completely from the central control panel of the hosting service provider – let alone using proxies, vpns, or even just going as close the UAE to access the website.
I think that it is important for web masters to watch this case closely to see to what extent they have to cooperate with the Public Prosecution before they are held liable for the content published by someone else.