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Oman: “Mowaten” Magazine’s website blocked on World Press Freedom Day

2017-05-05

Authorities in Oman continue their systematic campaign to confiscate public freedoms in the country, including freedom of the press. The latest of their arbitrary procedures is the blocking of the website of the online magazine “Mowaten” (“Citizen”).

Reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that on the morning of 03 May 2017, which is World Press Freedom Day, the Internal Security Service (ISS) ordered the competent authorities to completely block the website of “Mowaten” throughout the country.

“Mowaten” Magazine is an independent electronic journal founded on 06 June 2013, and according to its website, it “monitors the events of the community and takes care of citizens' issues in Oman and the Arabian Gulf.” One of its objectives is to try to create an environment for free press and to discuss the issues that are concealed in the press owned by the authorities. It is currently published from the United Kingdom.

On 14 January 2016, “Mowaten” published a statement in which it announced that it would stop publishing until further notice because of what it described as “circumstances beyond its control, the most important being the safety of writers and journalists of “Mowaten”.”

The editorial board recently decided to re-launch the magazine on World Press Freedom Day in order to mark the date, however it was immediately blocked by the authorities. The new issue includes various topics, some of which are focused on press freedom, and a comparative study between the propaganda press on one hand and the independent and free press on the other in Oman.

GCHR condemns the ongoing systematic campaign of the ISS, apparently under direct guidance from the higher authorities, to crack down on public rights and freedoms including freedom of the press and the elimination of space available for human rights defenders in addition to Internet activists in the country.

GCHR urges the authorities in Oman to:

  1. Stop immediately and without any conditions the harassment of the magazine "Mowaten" and unblock its website, in addition to refraining from targeting its writers and editors;
  2. Respect public freedoms, including freedom of the press, the freedom of opinion and expression for all citizens including Internet activists;
  3. Release all detained human rights defenders and other prisoners of conscience and drop all charges against them immediately and unconditionally; and
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders and Internet 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.

The 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, recognizes 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.”