Electronic Participation General Policy of the Shura Council
In response to the supreme orders of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, may Allah protect him, in April 2011 to develop the communication between citizens and various government organs; and with reference to the Digital Omani Strategy; and in order to keep up with this development; and to consolidate the relationship between the Shura Council and the community, the Electronic Media Section is keen to update the citizens with the new developments, hear their opinions and ideas and interact with their suggestions. Despite the importance of social media platforms, it has made many challenges that must be addressed very carefully .
Therefore, the Shura Council has designed this policy to enable its various departments, its members and its staff to strengthen the relations between the Council and citizens.
The E-Participation Policy aims to:
1. Establish the necessary rules and regulations that would regulate the use of social media platforms.
2. Clarify the procedures and responsibilities related to this process, making it as a reference for the optimal use of these social media platforms.
Types of tools used by the Council to communicate with the community:
III. Electronic Media
- Social media platforms: it refers to the interactive websites used to communicate with others, often informally through the Internet.
- Television reports: they include a summary of the activities and achievements of the Council at the end of each annual session.
- Films and videos about the Council.
- Hosting radio and television reporters and journalists
According to the Oman’s digital strategy; and in line with the digital developments in the Sultanate; and based on the electronic participation policy; the Council plays this role through:
- Enhancing the Council's presence on the electronic platforms and keeping pace with the changes in this field, in order to achieve the objectives of the Council .
- Managing the accounts of the Council and publishing its news on its official electronic accounts.
- Disseminating the parliamentary culture on the functions and competences of the Council.
- Covering the meetings, seminars and dialogues of the Council.
- Enhancing the e-community participation through the electronic tools .
- Managing the portal of the Shura Council, and feeding it with appropriate media content.
- Coordinating with the management of Oman Council's Technical Support in relation to media activities.
- Updating data and information and making them available to the public.
- Participating in relevant internal and external events competitions to enhance the role of the Council in the electronic media field.
IV. Media publications
The Shura Council uses different publications to enhance its media presence, document its work and present it to the public through:
- Designing and directing all publications issued by the Council.
- Designing and directing the Shura Magazine.
- Supervising the various designing activities related to the Council (logos, banners, certificates of appreciation..etc)
- Following up the printing of publications.
- Distributing the Council's publications to the public, private and civil society institutions.
- Following up the implementation of the identity of the Shura Council.
Electronic Participation Principles:
The electronic media provides enough space for various topics, using written and audiovisual means.
- Participation as a fundamental right:
Participation shall be a fundamental right for every citizen, as it contributes to the improvement of national policies and strategies that target citizens .To achieve this goal, it is essential to that citizens' e-views and inquires are taken into consideration.The participation of citizens must be recognized in order to promote and maintain a culture of participation .
Rules of electronic media of Shura Council:
Council's e-media has a set of characteristics that distinguish it from other media tools:
Journalists and citizens can obtain any information that is published by the Council through the channels of social media at any time without requesting permission for that, and get access to electronic media archive without restrictions.
E-media promotes the culture of respecting different opinions by giving others the chance to express their views. Accordingly, e-media should focus continuously on opening doors for the communication between the Council and the audience.
- Rapid development:
This type of media is fast in development; it has become an important tool in government administration. Therefore, the policy of e-media must be subject to change and modification in accordance with the technical developments that are taking place and must keep pace with it.
Working on social media platforms requires a continuous and creative update of the used materials. Council's accounts shall take the lead in publishing its news.
- Trust in Employees:
Social media communication requires quick response and direct contact with followers. It is therefore necessary to give trust in employees and authorize them once they are properly trained; they should be able to understand and manage risks regarding disclosure, verification and follow-up. The person who manages the account is entitled to seek assistance from the competent individuals at the Council according to their field of specialization to respond to the inputs of the followers: the Council Chairmanship should assign a number of employees to help the social media team.
- Minimization and prevention of complaints:
It is necessary to clarify to those concerned with the work of the Council that the complaints related to the work or criticism received via the official accounts of the Council should not be mentioned through channels of social communication.
The Section of E-Media shall be responsible for managing and monitoring the social media official accounts of the Council and dealing with all issues related to the Council through social media platforms. The Section of E-Media publishes and manages the contents of the Council's channels on social networks as follows:
- Publishing the news of the Council in a simplified and direct way.
- Providing coverage for the Council's various public meetings and publishing press releases of public sittings.
- The responsible team shall adopt a unified e-mail address or special communication channel representing the Council when requesting information or data from the followers who seek to communicate directly with the staff of the Council.
- The e-media team shall deal with the personal information of the followers in a confidential way.
- In all cases, the employee is responsible for ensuring that his/her personal behaviour on the social networking platforms does not harm the reputation of the organization to which he/she belongs or any other party in any way.
Public Rights Towards e-media participation:
- The public has the right to know the results of the questionnaires and the surveys that the Council raises from time to time.
- The public has the right to inquire about the status of the complaint, proposal or contribution made through one of the social media accounts of the Council.
- The public has the right to access to electronic data tools in the form of open data which shall be available for copying and uploading.
It should be noted that all public posts and discussions are personal and represent the point of view of the author. The Shura Council shall not be legally liable for any consequences resulting from the user's misuse of electronic participation tools.
Procedures for using social media tools:
The Council shall be responsible for publishing and managing the contents of its pages on the channels of social communication, taking into account the following points:
I. Account management
A. Management of the official accounts of the Shura Council in the channels of social media:
The employee is authorized to communicate officially with the public through the official accounts of the Council on social media channels. All comments and opinions published by the employee on these accounts represent the official opinion of the Council. In this case, the following conditions shall be met:
- Issuing a decision by the Chairman of the Council specifying the employees authorized to manage the official accounts of the Council, including the policies or services that may be followed by the employee's when communicating with the public.
- The person who manages the social networking accounts is entitled to refrain from giving the user name and password to any other person whose name is not included in the chairman decision ,regardless of his/her job rank, without the permission of the Chairman of the Council or the Secretary General.
- The employee is entitled to refrain from publishing any news or information not issued by the Council's media in case such news provoke public's opinion or as a promotional advertisement.
- The nature of the work of e-media, which requires staying in touch with the public outside the official working hours and throughout the week, must be taken into consideration; or as provided in the Council's Internal Regulations.
- Once staff members have been authorized to use their names to represent the Council on social networking sites, staff members should identify themselves by their full name, function, department and contact information.
a. Content Type:
The electronic content of the Shura Council should be varied in the material presented to the public, and should not focus on one direction only, so that the content reaches the following goals:
- Informative goals: to provide the exclusive news of the Council to the citizens in a direct and concise way.
- Cultural goals: to raise awareness of citizens regarding the events of the Council in addition to educating them about the role of the Council, its composition and its important functions.
- Social goals: to enhance the interaction between citizens and the Council through receiving of views, ideas and proposals.
B. Content Management:
- The roles of managing of the official social media accounts of the Council are distributed to the staff of the e-media section, so that each employee is responsible for managing an account, provided that the staff of the department coordinates with each other in the absence of one of them.
- Publishing of e-content shall be within the official framework.
- The news shall be published through social media networks after being approved by the manager of the media department or his/her assignee.
- Communication with the public should be interactive, and direct, not random or general, allowing the Council to broadcast the right message to the target audience in a quick and direct manner.
- The employee is entitled to use the response as he/she deems appropriate from all concerned in their field of specialization.
- Ensure that content is filtered by ignoring posts that may become irrelevant for one reason or another, or if content is a form of infringement, insult, or out of context and law.
- Take advantage of legal materials in the case of verbal or insult infringement of one of the followers, as well as in the case of dissemination of rumors by certain persons or accounts in accordance with the Telecommunications Regulatory Act in the Sultanate.
- It is not allowed for employees of the Council to publish the Council's news through their personal accounts before being published by the official accounts of the Council in order to avoid duplication and achieve credibility.
- Any material that would pose a threat to national or individual security, or anything might violate the privacy of others, or abuse them, or any comments that may contain infringements of a personal nature or contain inappropriate language should be deleted.
III. Information security:
As the other websites, Social media sites are subject to many risks such as phishing, social engineering and attacks on web applications. Therefore, protection against such risks is necessary.
In this regard, the Council must, in addition to the security measures and procedures described in its information security policy, emphasize on the following:
- Ensure that employees do not use their government official email addresses to log in to their social media accounts.
- Prevent access to unnecessary functions and applications such as games and other applications deployed in some social networking tools, in order to avoid risks related to protection such as spam files, phishing and attacks on protection. Accordingly, the Council shall provide a special device for the employee to work with.
- Raise awareness about risks related to social media tools and risk mitigation methods.
The use of different kind of social media tools increases the vulnerability to privacy breaches, which is the improper use of information by persons who are not authorized to access such information. Therefore, the Council must take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of the privacy of data and information from any potential risks. Accordingly, the Council must adhere to the following procedures before starting to create an account on social media channels, which are as follow:
- Clearly identify the type of information that employees may publish via social media tools.
- The account manager is entitled to republish or prefer publications he/she deems appropriate to the overall perspective of the Council. It is also allowed to retweet or share interventions that include a note or criticism of the Council (as deemed appropriate by the account manager).
V. Prohibited Publications:
- All entries and contributions are subject to the audit and review process. The materials that are intended to be published shall be rejected and deleted in the following cases (the Council shall reserve the right to refrain from expressing reasons for matters that may affect the security of the State, the sovereignty of national unity and the undermining of its national interests):
- If the comments are out of context or irrelevant.
-If the language is disrespectful or offensive to beliefs.
-If the comments and posts support or incite illegal activities.
- If the comments and posts violate any legal rights or intellectual property rights.
- If the parliamentary news is classified among the confidential and limited documents.
- If the posts and topics would raise sectarian strife or hint at cultural and ethnic racism.
- If the articles and posts contain indecent words through hints and gestures.
- If the posts are inciting, slander, or insulting leaders, symbols of the state, friendly and fraternal state, or issues of personal life.
- If the posts are insulting religions and sacred rituals, articles and topics that raise sectarian differences.
-The subjects, posts and contributions contrary to the law and public customs; beyond the acceptable scope.
VI. Intellectual property rights:
-The use of social media sites raises many legal issues related to intellectual property. The ease of publishing and distributing content on social media sites makes it very easy to violate intellectual property rights laws - intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, the Council should publish the disclaimer clearly through its official pages on the social media sites; to retain the rights to publish the content prepared by it. The Council should also refer to the law of protection of copyright and related rights of the Sultanate of Oman promulgated by Royal Decree No. 65/2008.
-The Council should also be aware of the difficulty of protecting the rights of the publication of the content sent to the social media sites. Therefore, any content that will be published on these channels prior to publication should be selected and reviewed to ensure the protection of government data and information.
-The Council should also use the legal opinion in the event that one of the followers publishes what violates the intellectual property of the Council as his/her owns property, and therefore sue him/her if required.
Social media platforms are the link between the Council and the community. They are found to achieve the public interest. Therefore, all competent bodies must abide by what has been mentioned above and must avoid violating its terms in order to enhance the work of the Council.