Thursday, August 25, 2011

Muscat's Daily Azzaman awaits its fate on the 28th August

Watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) appealed last week to Oman's Sultan Qaboos to disregard the charges placed upon Yousef al-Haj, a senior editor with the Muscat-based daily Azzaman. On 14th May, Mr al-Haj expressed his view in the daily that there is an emerging problem of corruption within the Ministry of Justice. He also quoted a justice ministry employee's similar allegations about favouritism in promotions within the ministry. The stories last year cited claims of embezzlement, graft and other abuses within the ministry. Justice minister Mohamed al-Hanai lodged an official complaint about the journalist leaving him with charges including "insulting the justice ministry, insulting the justice minister and his under-secretary, trying to create divisions within Omani society, violating article 60 of the civil code (the publications law), (and) working as a journalist without a permit."

The RSF said, "it would be regrettable if the Omani courts upheld this decision, which would violate freedom of the press and would give credence to the journalist's allegedly defamatory claims." The president of Azzaman's board will also be tried for "illegally employing Haj without a permit from the information ministry." Last Sunday, an Omani court postponed the trial of Azzaman editor Ibrahim al-Maamary and managing editor Yussuf al-Haj until 28th August to give the defence attorneys more time to prepare. The daily could risk being shutdown.

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