A question for World Press Freedom Day:
Does Oman have a free press?
In Oman there is one official newspaper, the daily Oman, plus a number of private newspapers and other publications such as Al-Shabiba, Al Watan, Azamn and Alroya, as well as electronic publications such as Al Balad newspaper and the journal Mowatin.
In August 2016, the Omani Information Ministry issued an administrative order closing down Azamn newspaper after it published articles about alleged corruption in the judiciary. Azamn appealed against the order, but its appeal was turned down in the administrative court. The editor-in-chief and managing editor were sent to jail.
The e-journal Mowatin announced in January 2016 that it was suspending operations following harassment by the security services of a number of its journalists.
In October 2016, the online newspaper Al Balad likewise announced the suspension of operations. It did not give a specific reason for this, but the decision came just days after the Mukhabirat (Internal Security) detained its founder and editor-in-chief, Turki al-Balushi.
A few months later, the Information Ministry cancelled an Omani journalist’s accreditation as a Reuters correspondent because of a report she filed saying Oman was asking Gulf states for a multibillion-dollar deposit in its central bank.
There is still a wide-ranging campaign of oppression targeting activists, journalists, writers and bloggers for expressing their views on their webpages.
Article 26 of the Omani Press and Publications Law, which many see as clearly violating the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and publication, states:
“It is forbidden to publish anything prejudicial to the safety of the state or its internal or external security, or anything concerning the military and security agencies or their statutes and internal regulations, or any confidential documents, information, news or official communications, whether through audiovisual and textual media or by means of data networks or information technology, without permission from the relevant authorities.”
And in its latest World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Oman in 126th position, and coloured it red (for “bad”) on its press freedom map.
So do you still think there is a free press in Oman?