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Oman court orders permanent shutdown of Al Zaman daily

Editor and journalists have been involved in a long standing legal case surrounding an expose about corruption

Gulf News

Muscat: The Supreme Court of Oman yesterday upheld the ruling to permanently close down Al Zaman newspaper.

“The court decided to close down Al Zaman permanently,” according to Zaher Al Abri, one of the journalists involved with the case, that polarised the public opinion in Oman.

In August, 2016, the Omani government ordered Al Zaman to close its offices after it published two reports accusing top government officials of pressuring the judiciary to change a ruling in an inheritance case.

The government argued, in a statement run by the state-run news agency ONA, that the newspaper violated freedom of expression by running the reports.

The government promised legal action against the journalists but asserted that freedom of expression “remains an authentic value that cannot be evaded and that freedom of expression should become a responsible action that is not motivated by any personal impulses”.

The court also sentenced two Omani journalists to prison sentences

In November, 2016, Ebrahim Al Mamari, editor-in-chief of Al Zaman, was handed a six-month sentence while Yousuf Al Haj, an editor at Al Zaman, was handed a one-year sentence.

Zaher Al Abri, a reporter at the same paper, was acquitted.

In April, Al Mamari was released after completing his sentence. Al Haj will be released later this month.

On July 27, 2016, Al Zaman ran a story under the headline ‘Supreme bodies tie the hands of justice’, accusing government officials of pressuring Supreme Court judges to overturn a decision in an inheritance case.

Al Haj interviewed the vice-president of the Supreme Court who, according to the report, said that the judiciary was in a “pitiful state” and that there had been many violations.

Al Mamari, Al Haj and Al Abri, were held in detention for more than a month before the trial. They were later released on bail in October.

The three men were later convicted on charges of disturbing public order, undermining the prestige of the state, and misusing the internet.