Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest on 12 July of poet and journalist Abdallah Al-Ryami for criticising human rights violations in Oman, and deplored the strict censorship of writers and journalists which the Omani authorities have been enforcing for the past few months.
"We call on the sultanate's government to free Al-Ryami at once and to respect the 1995 Alma-Ata declaration in which it undertook to adopt laws guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, access to information and press freedom," the organisation said.
Amendment of the press laws, which allow the authorities to exercise systematic control of all means of expression, is also necessary, Reporters Without Borders said.
Al Ryami had been harassed by the authorities ever since he was invited to take part in a televised debate about democratic reforms in July 2004, and voiced doubt about the government's readiness to undertake real democratic reforms. The authorities immediately gave verbal instructions to newspaper editors and the state radio and TV broadcaster's executives forbidding them to interview Al Ryami or even mention his name or his works.
A published poet and playwright, Al-Ryami often used to take part in arts and culture programmes on Omani television. Since he spoke out on Al-Alam, his TV programmes had been withdrawn but he continued to write for various websites such as www.kikah.com, an independent online magazine dedicated to arts and culture.