The Freedom of Information.

The concept of the right to access information usually refers to individuals’ right to obtain or access information without censorship or restrictions. Some academics argue that public access to information about those in power is an essential component of democracy and transparency, achieved through the open dissemination of information.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees this right, as does Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in order to support freedom of opinion, expression, and publication, including the pursuit of information in safety. Information concerning government work, official institutions’ expenses and officials, corruption issues, the functioning of security apparatuses in internal and external matters, and more, is information that belongs to citizens and not the government alone. Therefore, withholding this information without declaring the reasons is considered a violation of the citizen’s right to access information and may indicate not only poor governance but also corruption and a series of crimes committed in secrecy and in public.

Political authorities cannot be considered sincere in dealing with information related to their work unless there are legal legislations that allow the press and media, especially independent ones, to access the workings of the authority and its decision-making processes. This usually provides an opportunity for all institutions and even individuals to hold the government accountable. One of the fruits of genuine democracy is not only monitoring the government’s performance and holding it accountable but also the right to access information that can help you understand how your country is managed, leading to effective and genuine participation in decision-making.

The right to access and obtain information is a right for every citizen and institution, and it is a useful mechanism that helps improve government performance and increase the quality of work because citizens, in this case, know what the government is actually doing and can hold it accountable if its performance is questionable in various aspects, such as public spending, budgeting, national projects, judiciary, security, and laws.

In Oman, this right is not present in local laws, and the government reserves the management mechanism of the country and even legislation, the appointment of officials, considering this behavior an inherent right that does not require explanation or justification to citizens. Furthermore, it never hesitates to take punitive measures against anyone who dares to hold it accountable or criticize its performance, while keeping information hidden.

The Basic Statute of the State referred to in Article 37 that freedom of the press, printing, and publishing are guaranteed according to conditions determined by the law, as well as the same article that prohibits publishing anything that could incite discord or harm national security, without clarification!

Although the Printing and Publishing Law in Articles 29 and 30 prohibits the publication of proceedings related to personal matters, the current Minister of Information used these articles to prevent local newspapers from publishing or covering any issues related to public interest, such as administrative corruption cases, and more!

Also, Article 115 of the Omani Penal Code acts as a real obstacle to journalistic and media work, even bloggers, as it punishes them with imprisonment for a period not less than 3 months and not exceeding 3 years for reasons related to publication and blogging about issues that the authority can interpret as purposeful news and data that could undermine the dignity of the state or affect the economic process.

Some journalists have been arrested and put on trial for addressing issues related to corruption in some official institutions. For example, Mukhtar Al-Hinai and the banning of Azaman newspaper in 2016.

It is worth noting that one of the most significant obstacles preventing the existence of civilized, democratic laws that respect the rights of citizens is that the Sultan holds many positions, including the presidency of the Council of Ministers. This prevents knowing the details of what is happening, whether before or after decisions are made. It poses a challenge and obstacle to journalists and bloggers alike since Article 97 of the Penal Code punishes with imprisonment for a period not less than 3 years and not exceeding 10 years anyone who criticizes the Sultan.

Freedom of access to information is not available in Oman, and anyone who attempts to comment or cover issues related to corruption by officials or even errors in the government’s work in Oman is at risk of arrest and imprisonment.

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