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Oman: Sultanate participates in the Oman-European Press Forum in France despite ongoing violations of freedom of expression and the press

The Oman-European Forum,entitled “Between Oman and Europe: Bridges for Journalistic, Literary and Artistic Communication”, is being organised by the Omani Journalists Association in cooperation with the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in France. The forum will be held on 19 November 2018 at UNESCO Headquarters, coinciding with the celebrations of the Sultanate of Oman on its forty-eighth national day. This day marks the birth of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman, who has been in power since 1970. Yet Oman does not fully respect freedom of expression and press freedom.

Oman has seen a decline in press freedom to 127th place, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Index 2018. The CIVICUS Monitor rates Oman as “Repressed”. Freedom House has rated Oman as a “not free” country. This is attributed to the consistent targeting of the independent pressby the Omani authorities, which closed “Azamn” and imprisoned its journalists, placed restrictions on the editorial board of the online magazine “Mowaten” (“Citizen”) and threatened to detain them, forcing its management to emigrate outside the country, in addition to harassing “Al-Balad” newspaper which led to its shut down. In addition to this, a large number of intellectuals and activists were imprisoned for varying periods due solely to their writings on social media networks. The Internet activist and human rights defender Hassan Al-Basham died in prison while serving his three-year sentence in prison for his writings. Recently, the authorities in Oman arrested Internet activists, including writer Sultan Al-Maktoumi, Salem Al-Arimi and Uday Al-Omairi, for their posts in which they called for reform and objected to the visit of Benjamin Netanyahu to Muscat. For more information, see:https://www.gc4hr.org/country/index/country/6

In addition, the authorities in Oman confiscated a large number of books during the 23rd Muscat International Book Fair, held from 21 February to 03 March 2018, without giving any explanation or reasons for their confiscation. A collection of books and novels was withdrawn by Omani writers, although a number of them have already been sold at previous exhibitions. Some of these confiscated books won awards, while others were celebrated. Some of them were issued by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture of Oman, the same institution that organised the exhibition, reflecting the random nature of its decisions.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Omani Association For Human Rights (OAHR) call on the authorities in Oman to stop their systematic campaign to confiscate the public freedoms of writers and citizens, including freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

GCHR and OAHR call upon the relevant authorities in Oman to work hard to put an immediate end to the systematic repression of the independent press and to respect and protect the other opinion.