Oman: The authorities decide to block the Clubhouse app

15.03.21

On 14 March 2021, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in Oman decided to ban the voice chat application Clubhouse, claiming that it had not been licensed by the Authority. Informed local sources confirmed that the Internal Security Service (ISS) is behind this decision to block Clubhouse.

Access Now, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR), the Omani Center for Human Rights (OCHR) and the Muwatin Media Network denounce in the strongest terms this arbitrary measure, which comes within a continuous pattern of repressive measures that the authorities have followed in recent years.

The five organisations are calling on the Omani authorities to repeal the decision to ban Clubhouse, to stop these systematic policies of repression and to respect public freedoms, including freedom of expression and opinion, on and off the Internet.

This decision immediately prompted the spread of the hashtag (#Oman_bans_club_house) on Twitter, where citizens in Oman, including civil society activists, expressed their condemnation of this arbitrary decision by the ISS, whose policies focus on silencing alternative voices.

On 10 June 2020, Sultan Haitham bin Tarik issued decree No. 64 of 2020 establishing the Cyber Defence Centre, which gives absolute control to the ISS over Internet users inside the country, their devices, and the data they save on these devices.

We call on the government in Oman to immediately rescind the decree establishing the Cyber Defence Centre system in order to preserve open spaces in which citizens can exercise their legitimate right to freedom of expression on the Internet. The task of preserving the Internet and making it a tool that contributes to building a prosperous future for all citizens must be entrusted to a group of independent academics and technologists, in cooperation with government institutions and other civil bodies with competence. The security services should be tasked to deal with cases of a criminal nature only.