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Six Sentenced to Prison in Oman for Criticism of Government Online
The prison sentences reportedly handed down to six men in Oman for criticizing the government online are another worrying sign of escalating efforts by the government to tighten its control online and offline following Arab Spring-inspired unrest. Oman must reverse the sentences against the six men, and repeal all laws that criminalize defamation.
The men received sentences of between one year and 18 months for “violating internet technology regulations” and were each fined 1,000 rial ($2,600).
Oman is rated Not Free in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World and Freedom of the Press surveys, and imposes some of the heaviest restrictions on publications and the press in the Arab world. Internet freedom is seriously limited, as the government exercises extensive control over content, periodically shutting down sites it deems politically or sexually offensive. In the last few months, scores of Omanis received prison sentences for expressing dissent online and offline. Last month, 12 Omanis were sentenced to prison for participating in an “illegal gathering,” and eight others were sentenced to prison for internet posts critical of the recent crackdown and lackluster job creation. In July 2012, 10 Omanis were sentenced to up to 18 months in prison on charges of posting social media comments that insulted Sultan Qaboos.