Muscat: The Omani government has ordered the daily Azamn newspaper to close its offices after it published two reports accusing top officials in the government of pressuring the judiciary to change a ruling in an inheritance case.
The newspaper violated freedom of expression by running the report, the government said in a statement run by ONA, the state-run news agency.
“The report did not only ignore the basics of freedom of expression, but it also degraded it by utilising it in such a manner that harms one of the pillars of the state — the justice institution,” the statement said.
“The institution should be respected rather than be targeted with deliberate accusations meant to shake confidence, as was intended by the said newspaper in its recent series of articles and interviews,” it said.
The statement added that the judicial institution is the guarantor of justice and public rights, and it is the safeguard of society’s stability, its protector and point of reference, which is resorted to upon litigation between individuals.
“Following its keenness to shoulder its responsibilities, the Government — as it espouses the principles set forth by the Basic Law of the State and perceives the essence of His Majesty the Sultan’s Royal speeches on responsible freedom of expression, and after elaborate study of all aspects of the issue — has undertaken procedures to protect the judicial institution and secure it against tampering of the injudicious and the scornful attitude of any entity that might disdain the values of Omani society,” said the statement.
The Government has taken legal action against the perpetrators of the published material.
While undertaking these procedures, the Government reiterates that freedom of expression will remain 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 Government also reaffirms that the institution of justice will continue to be a formidable edifice and a lofty symbol of virtue, to which the Government holds firm and fast.
The Editor-in-chief of the Arabic daily and two journalists are being held in custody for further interrogation.
The daily published a story on July 27 entitled “Supreme bodies tie the hands of justice” accusing government officials of pressuring top judges in the Supreme Court to overturn a decision in an inheritance case.
Yousuf Al Haj, an Azamn reporter, interviewed the vice-president of the Supreme Court, who said that the judiciary is in a ‘pitiful state’ and there are many violations.
Al Haj said on his Facebook account, that he has solid documents he obtained from a government’s official, which prove the involvement of top officials in corruption cases.
On social media, many Omanis were sympathetic with the daily saying it exposed corruption in the country. Speaking to Al Hayat newspaper, a top Omani official said that newspapers were publishing such news after the government suspended financial support to local newspapers due to an economic crisis due to the slump in oil prices.