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.
As HRDs rely extensively on online platforms due to the very limited access to broadcast and print media, monitoring of the Internet is pervasive. Websites deemed sensitive or controversial, including news and human rights websites, have been blocked. Several HRDs have also had their personal pages on social networking sites hacked or blocked.