Omani authorities target bloggers and journalists

Expression

Omani authorities have cracked down on online activists and bloggers as well as human rights defenders and journalists in recent months. Activists who were critical of the visit to Oman by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu in October 2018, and who wrote in defence of the Palestinian cause were specifically targeted, reports the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).

On 6th December 2018, the Internal Security Service (ISS) in Oman detained online activist and blogger Hatem Al-Maliki and held him incommunicado without access to a lawyer or his family. Al-Maliki who was summoned by the Special Division of the Omani Police Command in Sohar State, was detained upon his arrival for posts he published on social media criticising Israeli President Netanyahu’s visit to Muscat. He was released on 10th December 2018.

Al-Maliki is a well-known activist who was previously arrested on 24th June 2012 and charged with "insulting the Sultan." He was released on 27th August 2012 on bail while his trial continued, until it was suspended after he received an amnesty from Sultan Qaboos in 2013.

In other similar developments, activist Bader Al-Arimi was arrested on 19th December 2018 for his publications on social media networks, which included his defence of the Palestinian cause. He was detained for nearly a month and released on 17th January 2019. Similarly, on 30th December 2018, religious leader and activist Obeid bin Hashl Al-Hinai was arrested for supporting the civil and humanitarian rights of the Palestinian people and was released on 10th January 2019.

Two other activists, Salem Al-Arimi and Uday Al-Omairi, who had been arrested in November for their online criticism of relations between Oman and Israel, were released on 6th December and 19th November 2018 respectively. As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, internet activist Salem Al-Arimi was arrested by the Special Division of the Omani Police Headquarters in Muscat after they summoned him because of his writings, which also called for reforms.

In separate developments, in an article published in Al-Falaq titled I write in defense of my right! on 22nd January 2019, human rights lawyer and writer Basma Al-Keumy described the harassment she had been subjected to, since April 2018, as a result of her work in defence of human rights and her preference not to wear the hijab. Al-Keumy explained that she has regularly been subjected to harassment by the authorities, in contravention of the Omani constitution.