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Oman: “Azamn” editor Ibrahim Al-Ma'amari released while newspaper remains closed

2017-04-18

On 10 April 2017, prominent journalist Ibrahim Al-Maamari, Editor-in-chief of “Azamn” newspaper, was released from the Central Prison in Muscat, Oman after serving his six-month sentence. Meanwhile, “Azamn” newspaper remains closed by order of the Ministry of Information.

At a hearing held on 26 December 2016, the Court of Appeal announced its verdict related to the case of three “Azamn” journalists. The Court of Appeal acquitted Zaher Al-Abri while sentencing Yousef Al-Haj to one year in prison and Ibrahim Al-Maamari to six months in prison. The court also revoked the decision to shut down “Azamn” newspaper, which has been issued by the Ministry of Information.

However, on 08 January 2017, the Minister of Information issued another directive that extended the closure of “Azamn” for another three months – despite the decision by the Court of Appeal to allow the newspaper to open again. Reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that although the three months have been completed, the newspaper is still not allowed to reopen.

The three journalists had been tried and sentenced after reporting on judicial corruption. For more details, see a joint trial observation report at: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1434

While GCHR welcomes the news that Ibrahim Al-Maamari has been released, it condemns in the strongest terms the continued imprisonment of Yousef Al-Haj and the ongoing closure order issued by the Minister of Information against “Azamn” newspaper, which contradicts the decision of the Court of Appeal mentioned above.

The GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to: 

  1. Release Yousef Al-Haj immediately and revoke the decision to shut down “Azamn” newspaper;
  2. Provide a secure environment for “Azamn” newspaper to do its journalistic work;
  3. Protect freedom of the press in the country; and
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders including journalists, writers and on-line activists in Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.