Press freedom in Oman: almost non-existent

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The case of Azamn newspaper – initially shut down in August 2016 – ended with a Supreme Court ruling leading to its permanent closure in October 2017. 

The latest World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), published in April 2020, ranks Oman 135th out of 180 countries. RSF colours it red, for “bad”, on its press freedom map, meaning that the press is only partly free, and the situation for journalists is “difficult”.

RSF notes that censorship is ubiquitous in Oman, and journalists are often arrested and sometimes held incommunicado, given long jail sentences on charges of insulting the head of state or the country’s culture and customs, or of calling for unlicensed gatherings and disrupting public order.

Meanwhile Freedom House, in its latest report “Freedom in the World 2019”, says freedom of expression in Oman is “limited”, and criticism of the sultan is prohibited. It notes that there are private media outlets in addition to those run by the state, but they typically accept government subsidies, practise self-censorship, and face punishment if they cross political red lines.

Freedom House adds that the Omani government’s efforts to suppress critical news and commentary extend to books and social media.

Journalists are liable to arrest and detention if they contact international media organisations. 

Journalists in Oman are supposed to disclose their sources if required by the government to do so. 

Article 26 of the Omani Press and Publications Law is seen by many activists, writers, journalists and bloggers as a blatant violation of the right to freedom of opinion, expression and publication.

Article 115 (a) of the recently updated Omani Penal Code can be viewed as threatening any attempt to do journalistic work that strays beyond the limits imposed on the rest of the press by government and security requirements.

the Omani Information Ministry, under the direct supervision of the Omani Internal Security Service, controls the choice of correspondents by foreign news agencies, newspapers and TV stations operating outside Oman. 

According to the OCHR’s sources, the Omani Information Ministry grants journalism and media licenses to whichever journalists and broadcasters it likes. 

Press in Oman only exists to serve the ruler and government!