Oman: Update: Oman: Journalist Yousef Al-Haj arrested and “Azamn” newspaper shut down


On 09 August 2016, an official source said the Omani government has taken all “suitable legal procedures” against “Azamn” newspaper, including ordering the newspaper closed indefinitely. A report received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that the Internal Security Service (ISS) has arrested journalist and Deputy Editor of “Azamn”, Yousef Al-Haj, who worked as the Acting Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper. The Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Al-Mamaari is currently in jail.

GCHR confirmed that the Ministry of Information ordered the closure of “Azamn”, with an immediate effect. The Minister for Information, in Ministerial decision number 80/2016, gave the order that "the publication and circulation of the newspaper by all means, including online, is not allowed starting on 09 August 2016."

The latest arrest and the closure of the newspaper are a result of the interview the Vice-President of Oman’s Supreme Court, Ali bin Salem Al-Nomani, has given to “Azamn” newspaper, published in its 09 August 2016 issue, in which he thanked the newspaper for dissemination of "facts without a slur on anybody" in a news report published on 26 July 2016. The article, entitled "Supreme bodies tie the hands of justice," led to the targeting of the newspaper by the security forces and the arrest of its Editor, Ibrahim Al-Maamari, and journalist Zaher Al-Abri.

On 28 July 2016, security forces arrested Ibrahim Al-Maamari. On 30 July 2016, an official source from the Public Prosecutor gave statements to the local press in which he said the reason for the arrest of Al-Maamari was the 26 July news article that “Azamn” published which referred to the corruption of senior officials and their interference in judicial decisions.

On 03 August 2016, the ISS summoned “Azamn” journalist Zaher Al-Abri to appear before the Special Division, and detained him upon arrival.
Reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirm that both Ibrahim Al-Maamari, Zaher Al-Abri, and Yousef Al-Haj are being held at the Special Division of the Omani Police General Command in Muscat, which is the executive arm of the ISS. They are not allowed to contact their families or lawyers.

GCHR declares its full solidarity with the “Azamn” newspaper and its three detained journalists, and it calls on the UN’s human rights mechanisms, the EU, and all governments that have influence in Oman, particularly the British and US governments, to act immediately in order to protect press freedom in the country and ensure the release of the detained journalists, Ibrahim Al-Maamari, Zaher Al-Abri, and Yousef Al-Haj.

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