Oman Increases its Restriction on Freedom of Expression

Oman jailed two social media users this month for posts they made on Facebook and Twitter. First, an Omani court sentenced Hassan al-Basham, a former diplomat, to three months in prison on charges of “insulting God and the country’s leader,” Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said. The charges are related to a series of posts on social media in which al-Basham discusses economic, religious, political, and social topics. Later in the month, a court also sentenced Sayyid al-Daruri, an artist and researcher, to three months in prison for sharing a Facebook post that reportedly emphasized his affiliation with Dhofar, region in Oman that was the site of a rebellion in the 1960s and 1970s.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented a pattern of repression of free expression Oman, where critics increasingly face harassment and ambiguous criminal charges, such as “insulting the Sultan” and “undermining the prestige of the state.” According to HRW, the Omani government increased its use of such restrictive measures after the country’s popular uprising in 2011. Since then, human rights activists, such as Mohammed Fazari, a well-known blogger, have also been subject to travel bans. Security forces stopped Fazari at the Muscat International Airport in December 2015, confiscating his passport and identification card. It is speculated that the authorities have harassed Fazari due to his articles on government corruption in Oman.

Margaret Bailey is an Advocacy Intern at ADHRB.