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Omani journalist detained over article on judiciary

The following statement was originally published on gc4hr.org on 1 August 2016.

Oman's Internal Security Service (ISS) arrested prominent journalist Ibrahim Al-Maamari, Editor-in-chief of Azamn newspaper on 28 July 2016, according to reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). He is reportedly being held at the Special Division of the Omani Police General Command in Muscat, which is the executive arm of the ISS.

On 30 July 2016, an official source from the Public Prosecutor gave statements to the local press saying the reason for Al-Maamari's arrest was a news article Azamn published on 26 July, entitled "Supreme bodies tie the hands of justice". The article referred to the corruption of senior officials and their interference in judicial decisions. The official source claimed that the news article discredited the integrity of the judiciary and other government agencies. He added that "what the newspaper has done is a public crime" and confirmed the Public Prosecutor's complaint against the newspaper and the start of investigation procedures based on Article IV of the Criminal Procedures Act. He also confirmed that an arrest warrant had been issued for Al-Maamari and that he is detained pending investigation.

The same official source stated that Al-Maamari faces several charges including violation of Articles 25 and 29 of the Press and Publications Law, which could lead to up to two years' imprisonment in addition to a fine. He also faces charges of undermining the prestige of the state and its position in accordance with Article 35, paragraph i of the Penal Code as well as a misdemeanour charge for publishing news that would disturb public order in accordance with Article 19 of the Cyber Crimes Act.

In another negative development, the Minister of Information ordered Azamn not to publish any news related to the case of its Editor-in-Chief, forcing the newspaper to release its issue on 1 August 2016 with half of its front page blank.

Al-Maamari is a prominent journalist in Oman well-known for his professionalism and integrity. The Azamn newspaper, which he edits, is a thorough and independent daily newspaper. His primary goal is delivering the truth to the reader.

Al-Maamari has been targeted before. In September 2011, he was sentenced together with the newspaper's secretary to five months in prison for insulting the Minister and Deputy Minister of Justice. Azamn was also ordered closed for a month, following the publication of an article about the grievance of an employee at the Ministry of Justice, who was also sentenced to five months in prison.

GCHR expresses serious concern about the continued acts of threats, intimidation and surveillance directed at human rights defenders, journalists and Internet activists in Oman. GCHR deplores strongly the human rights violations carried out by the Omani government and its security forces, including the arrest of Ibrahim Al-Maamari, which poses a serious blow to press freedom in the country.

GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to:

1. Release journalist Ibrahim Al-Maamari immediately and unconditionally;

2. Stop directing judicial and security harassment against human rights defenders and journalists; and

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • Omani journalist jailed over article on judiciary

    "Oman likes to fashion itself as a problem-solver in the region. But by arresting journalists, it has instead become part of the problem," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Senior Research Associate Jason Stern. "The Omani government should focus on refuting articles it holds are untrue instead of arresting the journalists who wrote them."

  • Oman: Newspaper editor held over article about pressure on judiciary

    “By punishing this journalist in this way and by keeping him in detention, the Sultanate of Oman is sending a negative message about media freedom and is demonstrating an inability to tolerate criticism of the political and judicial system. We call for an independent and impartial investigation and for Al-Maamari’s immediate release.”

Case history


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