Muscat: What is the penalty for leaking confidential documents in the Sultanate of Oman, and what are the degrees of classification of confidential documents?
From time to time, information, data, and documents are spread and circulated. These come under documents classified as per the Law of Classification of State Documents and Protected Places, and other laws specifying issues that may not be published by the media.
Some may comment that since this message has spread among the public via social media applications, why doesn't the News media publish and announce it?
Let us clarify what classified documents are, and what are the penalties for those who publish them, by referring to the Law of Classifying State Documents and Organising Protected Places promulgated by Royal Decree No. 111/2011 and its amendments.
Government documents are divided into four categories, the lowest being 'Hidden', and 'Top Secret' being the highest. The following is an explanation of the differences between these classifications, and the penalties for disclosing them:
1) Very Confidential (Top Secret): This classification is applied if the document contains five types of information, including information which, if subject to disclosure, retention, or possession, would lead to serious damage to the internal or external security of the state, or benefit any country or other party that would pose or is likely to pose a danger on the Sultanate.
The information may include official political information related to international relations, agreements or treaties and all related discussions, studies and preparatory work.
2) Confidential: This classification comes if the document includes five types of information, including information which, if disclosed, retained, or possessed, threatens the safety of the state, causes damage to its interests, or is of benefit to another country or entity. It also encompasses the disclosure of information with a security dimension that could cause a negative impact on the morale of the citizens.
Disclosure of documents classified as 'Confidential' and 'Top Secret' shall lead to a prison sentence of no less than three years and no more than five years, and a fine of no less than 1,000 Omani Riyals and no more than 3,000 Omani Riyals.
3) Limited: The 'Limited' classification is applied to documents including information that would lead to administrative or economic difficulties for the country, or benefit any country or other party if disclosed, retained or possessed.
It also consists of information that harms the reputation of any public figure.
4) Hidden (Concealed): A document is given the 'Hidden' classification if it includes information that is not preferable to be disclosed, in order to preserve the interests of the state, as well as information related to financial or economic affairs, the disclosure of which would harm the interest of the state.
Additionally, information related to administrative or personnel affairs also comes under this classification.
Disclosure of documents classified as 'Limited' and 'Concealed' shall lead to a penalty of imprisonment for a period of no less than six months and no more than two years, and a fine of no less than 200 Omani Riyals and no more than 500 Omani Riyals.
The law also included a ban on any employee that divulges any classified document or information he obtained or viewed by virtue of his job, unless he obtained permission to do so from the competent authority. The prohibition also applies to those whose service has been terminated for any reason.