Ibrahim Al-Maamari, the editor-in-chief of the Omani independent newspaper Azamn, and managing editor Youssef Al-Haj were released provisionally today by an court that will rule on their appeal on 7 November.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) nonetheless insists that the journalists should be released unconditionally and their newspaper, whose permanent closure was ordered in September, should be allowed to resume publishing.
Al-Maamari and Al-Haj were freed after the appeal court, at their lawyers’ request, reduced the amount of bail to 2,000 rials (4,000 euros) from the 50,000 rials (110,000 euros) set by the court that convicted them. The third defendant in this case, Azamn local news editor Zaher Al-Abri, was already released conditionally on 22 August.
“These three journalists have been released provisionally but they are guilty of no crime so the authorities should overturn their conviction and allow the newspaper to resume publishing,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “We also condemn the censorship of this case that has been imposed by the authorities. The media should be allowed to cover this appeal normally.”
During today’s hearing, the court again prohibited the Omani media from publishing or broadcasting any report about the appeal hearings.
Arrested in July and August in connection with their coverage of a case of alleged judicial corruption, the three journalists were convicted on 26 September. Al-Maamari and Al-Haj were sentenced to three years in prison, a heavy fine, and a ban on working as journalists for a year after their release.
Al-Abri was sentenced to a year in prison and a fine, while the newspaper was banned for good.
The Sultanate of Oman is ranked 125th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.