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Oman issues warning over social media ‘rumours’

Public prosecution says there is growing participation in 'negative writings' on internet

Oman issues warning over social media ‘rumours’
Omani authorities are warning users not spread rumours over social networks such as Twitter.

Oman's public prosecution has promised a crackdown on social media sites after warning activists not to use them to "spread libels and rumours" that prejudice national security.

It said in a statement published by Oman News Agency that there were "growing participations and negative writings on discussion forums, social networking websites and mobile applications".

"These writings include libels, spreading rumours, provoking sit-ins and strikes. Such writings are against values and morals of the Omani society, principles of the freedom of expression," it added in the statement.

The statement also said a number of "violators and perpetrators" had been recently arrested and would be "interrogated and referred to the judicial departments".

"While the Public Prosecution affirms that it will continue its duty towards ensuring abidance by the laws and regulations, it calls upon all citizens on the importance of following the legal methods and means for the expression of opinion in line with the legal concept for the freedom of expression," the statement went on to say.  

Earlier this week, US-based Human Rights Watch called on Omani authorities to halt "a sweeping crackdown on political activists and protesters arrested solely for exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly".

It said arrests since the end of May included 22 peaceful protesters and nine online activists and writers amid rising discontent in the Gulf sultanate over its perceived failure to carry out promised reforms.

"Omani activists are speaking out about broken promises for government reform," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Instead of listening, Omani authorities are arresting and prosecuting them to silence them."

On Sunday it was reported that a poet and a blogger were among 10 people arrested in Oman in the past two weeks amid rising discontent in the sultanate.

Activists said six people were arrested on Friday night included blogger Hassan Rukaishi, authors Hammoud al-Rashedi and Nabhan al-Hanashi and poet Hamad al-Kharusi.

Another four were arrested in separate incidents in the past two weeks, bringing the total to 10, activists said.

Earlier this month, a Kuwaiti court sentenced Hamad al-Naqi to 10 years in prison after ruling that he had endangered state security by insulting the Prophet Mohammad and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on social media.

Last month, four people were arrested by Abu Dhabi authorities on charges of "tribal instigation and libel" through posts on social networking site Twitter.

The arrests stem from insults being traded in a "heated discussion'' between the Palestinian woman and the three Emirati men via the website, official news agency WAM reported.

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