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Yousef Al-Haj

HRD & Acting Editor-in-Chief
Azamn newspaper

Yousef Al-Haj, is the Acting Editor-in-Chief of Azamn newspaper. Azamn newspaper is a local newspaper in Oman that has published reports on corruption and the involvement of Omani government officials in the judiciary of the country. In response to its work, the Omani Ministry of Information has issued renewed closure orders against the newspaper. Yousef Al-Haj is charged, inter alia, with “disturbing public order,” “undermining the prestige of the state” and criminal defamation after publishing tweets and reports that were critical of the Omani government. Yousef Al-Haj was previously detained by the Omani authorities and held in solitary confinement for 60 days following the aforementioned charges brought against him. He has since been released on bail pending trial. On 26 December 2016, the Omani Court of Appeal sentenced Yousef Al-Haj to one year in prison. The Court also revoked the decision to shut down “Azamn” newspaper which was issued by the Ministry of Information.

Human rights defenders (HRDs) and those criticising government policies or expressing dissent continue to be targeted and subjected to heavy restrictions. Many HRDs are subject to harassment, arbitrary detention, and torture in detention. Hundreds of academics, journalists and commentators have been arrested, charged and at times kept in incommunicado detention for taking parts in protests or criticising Sultan Qaboos.

HRDs remain under constant surveillance by the security services and are subject to summons for questioning by security officials. Independent human rights organizations are not permitted to operate within the country. Besides the Penal Code, the Information Technology law and the Press and Publications law are widely used to silence human rights defenders and independent voices.