MUSCAT // An Omani court shut down a newspaper for a month and jailed its editor in chief for five months yesterday for slandering the country's justice minister, a newspaper official said yesterday.
Ibrahim Al Maamary, the editor in chief, had worked for the Arabic daily Azzaman for six years. Yousuf Hajaj, the managing editor, was also sentenced to five months in prison.
The magistrate court on Wednesday also sentenced Haroon Al Mukaibli, an employee of the ministry of justice, for five months for leaking information to the paper.
Khalid Al Zidi, a reporter at Azzaman, said: "Mukaibli informed the newspaper of grievances of an employee of the justice ministry who was denied by the minister of his financial entitlements."
After Azzaman published the accusations in an article in May, the justice minister, Mohammed Abdulla Al Hinai, brought charges of slander against the newspaper.
Human rights activists said that the court's decision was a blow to freedom of expression and called the jailing of journalists "outrageous".
"It is a sad day for journalism in Oman and a setback to the freedom of expression. It is outrageous for reporters to be jailed for informing the public in what they believe was their right. It shows that government ministers cannot be held accountable," said Mohammed Al Farae, a human rights activist.