Media watchdog slams Oman for jailing journalist

Media watchdog slams Oman for jailing journalist
Oman has shown an 'inability to handle criticism' after an editor was detained for publishing a story accusing government officials of influencing the judiciary, Reports Without Borders has said.
2 min read
02 August, 2016
Oman's newspapers are rarely critical of the government [Getty]

Reporters Without Borders has condemned the jailing of a newspaper editor in Oman after an article was published accusing government officials of pressuring the judiciary in an inheritance case.

Ibrahim al-Maamari, editor of Azaman daily, was arrested on 28 July, two days after it published an article alleging that  officials tried to have judicial authorities change a 2015 ruling to the benefit of certain influential figures, the media watchdog said on Tuesday.

"We condemn Ibrahim al-Maamari's arrest and continuing detention," Alexandra el-Khazen, Reporters Without Border's Middle East chief, said in a statement.

"By punishing this journalist in this way and by keeping him in detention, the Sultanate of Oman is sending a negative message about media freedom and is demonstrating an inability to tolerate criticism of the political and judicial system," she said.

"We call for an independent and impartial investigation and for al-Maamari's immediate release."

A spokesman for Oman's public prosecutor's office has called the article "public crime" that discredited the integrity of the judiciary and government officials.

"By publishing false information, [Maamari] had violated articles 25 and 29 of the Press and Publications Law, which is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine," the public prosecution said, according to the media watchdog.

He is also accused of "undermining the prestige of the state" under an article of the penal code and publishing news that would disturb public order, it added.

In protest against the information ministry banning a story on Maamari's arrest, Azaman left half of its front page blank.

In 2011, Maamari was sentenced to five months in prison and the paper banned for a month due to an article deemed insulting to the justice minister.

The sentence was quashed when the paper published an apology.

Oman is ranked 125th out of 180 countries in Reporter's Without Borders' 2016 World Press Freedom Index, and along with other Gulf countries is known to jail government critics including journalists and bloggers.