Oman: Oman: “Al-Balad” says farewell to readers and stops publishing

31.10.16

On 30 October 2016, “Al-Balad” newspaper published on its website a letter written by its editor-in-chief, Turki bin Ali Al-Balushi, in which he said, "We have decided to close Al-Balad newspaper after a full four years and five months of continuous daily journalism." He added, "We sincerely apologize to the public and dear readers for this decision... but current circumstances indicate we must cease our work.”

Al-Balad, which is an online newspaper, was first published on 07 May 2012, in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day which is marked on 03 May each year. Al-Balad is an independent newspaper focused on Omani political, economic, social and cultural events, including the defense of prisoners of conscience, protection of public freedoms of citizens. Al-Balad showed its solidarity with its colleagues of the newspaper “Azamn”, which has been recently closed by a decision from the Ministry of Information.

On 14 January 2016, “Mowaten” (“Citizen”) magazine 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 Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) received reports confirming that it was subjected to consistent harassment by the Internal Security Service (ISS). On 09 August 2016, the Ministry of Information ordered the closure of “Azamn” newspaper with immediate effect.

The stoppage of Al-Balad newspaper comes at a time when freedom of the press in Oman is subjected to repeated attacks by the security services, particularly the ISS. They are working systematically to rescind public freedoms of citizens, restricting critical opinions contrary to that of the government, including threatening, imprisoning and torturing independent journalists and Internet activists who are trying peacefully to express their views on social media to defend people’s rights and confront corruption.

For more information on violations committed by the ISS, please visit:
https://www.gc4hr.org/news/index/country/6

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) urges authorities in Oman to:
1. Protect press freedom and stop targeting journalists in the country and allow the two newspapers “Azamn” and “Al-Balad” to work without harassment or any conditions; and
2. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders including journalists, writers, 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.