Alarm about Kuwait’s recent violations of media freedom

Read in Arabic (بالعربية) Reporters Without Borders is worried by an information ministry complaint that has led to the prosecution of two journalists with the Kuwaiti satellite TV station Al-YaumRima Al-Baghdady and Ahmad Al-Enezi – for reading out an opposition communiqué during a news bulletin on 9 October 2012. The organization is also very disturbed by a 20 February appeal court decision to uphold a one-month jail sentence for Zayed Al-Zaid, the publisher of the online newspaper Alaan, on a charge of defaming former oil minister Abdulmohsen Al-Madaj. Al-Zaid has been in prison since his arrest at Kuwait City international airport on his return from Washington on 27 February. Al-Yaum journalists Al-Baghdady and Al-Enezi, who were arrested on 7 November and immediately released on bail, are facing up to five years in prison on charges of attacking the emir’s honour and authority and insulting the emirate’s traditional values. The station’s news director, Hassan Rouq, and its CEO, Ahmad Jabr, are also charged in connection with the complaint. All four denied the charges when the first hearing was held on 5 December. The next hearing has been postponed until 10 April. Reporters Without Borders condemns Al-Zaid’s jail sentence and the trial of Al-Yaum journalists, who were just doing their job, and voices its concern about a decline in freedom of information. “Sentencing someone to imprisonment for the opinions they express or the information they report is a clear violation of Kuwait’s international obligations,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The charges against Al-Baghdady and Al-Enezi are also very dangerous because they show that the information ministry is blithely confusing opinion with news reporting. We are worried by the increase in trials of journalists and trials of cyber-activists and ordinary citizens who post Tweets deemed to have insulted the emir.” These trials can result in harsh sentences. Today, opposition activist Sager Al-Hashash was sentenced to two years in prison for the views he expressed on Twitter and on his blog. This concern is shared by other international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch. Reporters Without Borders added: “It is vital for Kuwaiti democracy to ensure that journalists can work freely. The trial of Al-Baghdady and Al-Enezi should be seen as an alarm signal. We urge the information ministry to withdraw its complaint. The charges against these two journalists must be dropped.” Kuwait is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and as such should respect article 19 of the covenant, which enshrines the right to “receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.”
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Updated on 20.01.2016