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Five-month jail terms for two journalists and their source confirmed on appeal

(RSF/IFEX) - 2 January 2012 - Reporters Without Borders deplores a Muscat appeal court's decision on 31 December to uphold five-month jail sentences for Yousef Al-Haj, a journalist with the Muscat-based daily Al-Zaman, Ibrahim Al-Mo'amari, his editor, and justice ministry employee Haroun Saeed in a defamation case brought by justice minister Mohamed Al-Hanai and his under-secretary. The appeal court also confirmed an order closing the newspaper for a month. The sentences were originally imposed on 21 September.

“We can only reiterate our disappointment that the sentences handed down by the lower court have been confirmed on appeal,” Reporters Without Borders said, urging the authorities to reverse this decision. “This ruling is a clear warning to journalists in the sultanate who dare to cover corruption within the state apparatus.”

The case was prompted by a 14 May article that quoted Saeed's allegations of growing corruption within the ministry and favouritism in appointments and promotions.

In an 11 August letter to Sultan Qaboos, Oman's head of state, on the eve of the original trial, Reporters Without Borders wrote: “The proceedings are out of all proportion to the gravity of the offence and we call for their immediate withdrawal.”

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