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Oman jails three journalists for reporting corruption in courtroom

The court jailed the editor and his deputy for reporting on corruption [al-Zaman]

Date of publication: 26 September, 2016

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Three journalists have been sent to prison for publishing stories that alleged state intervention in a court case and for publishing a damning interview with the country's deputy magistrate.

An Omani court has jailed three journalists and ordered the permanent closure of the Al-Zaman newspaper after their reports on alleged corruption in the country's judiciary.

The court fined the three journalists $7800 each and sentenced Ibrahim al-Maamari, the editor-in-chief and Yousef al-Haj, his deputy, to three years in prison.

The court also gave a one-year prison sentence and a fine of $2,600 to journalist Zaher al-Abri.

Oman's al-Atheer newspaper reported that Zaman's editor faced charges included "publishing false news, undermining the prestige of the state, and disturbing public order".

The charges related to a front-page story, published on July 26, titled Supreme bodies tie the hands of justice, which accused government officials of influencing Ishaq Bin Ahmed al-Bousaidi, the chief magistrate of the Omani Supreme Court, in an inheritance dispute case.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Al-Zaman received an order from the Ministry of Information, banning it from publishing details about the case after its editor-in-chief was arrested. Al-Zaman proceeded to publish a blank space on its front page for the next six days.

Al-Zaman subsequently published an interview with Bousaidi's deputy, Ali Salem al-Numani, despite orders not to, on August 7.

In the interview, Numani stated: "Attorney General Hussein al-Hilali, Supreme Court Chief Justice Isaac al-Busaidi, and Deputy President of the Court Saleh al-Rashidi are amongst violators and abusers of the basic laws of the State with overwhelming evidence."

Numani was apologetic for the way the authorities had treated the newspaper: "Misfortune occurs in the judiciary if the head of the Supreme Court and his deputy are behaving like this.

"It shows that they are not familiar with the basic law of the state."

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists last month wrote to Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman, calling for the journalists to be released.

"Detaining and prosecuting journalists because of their investigative coverage of a judicial case amounts to criminalising the very essence of journalism, which is to provide the public with information," the letter read.

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