November 4, 2002 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Government shuts down Al-Jazeera office

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the Kuwaiti government's closure of the local office of the Qatar-based regional TV station Al-Jazeera and said it was proof of the "contempt" many Arab governments had for press freedom. The Kuwaiti information ministry ordered the office to close on 3 November, the day after the station had broadcast a report that a quarter of Kuwait's territory (in the northwest) had been sealed off to allow US-Kuwaiti military manœuvres to take place there. The government said the report harmed the country's interests, while Al-Jazeera editors insisted it was objective and impartial. "The numerous bans and threats of Arab leaders aimed at the station clearly show their unshakeable solidarity when it comes to contempt for press freedom," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "The Gulf emirates in particular distrust their own people by denying their right to free and balanced news as opposed to official propaganda," he said, calling for the closure decision to be cancelled. Early last month, information ministers from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman attending a meeting in Muscat of the regional Gulf Cooperation Council accused Al-Jazeera of "insulting and defaming" their countries. They called on governments to refuse to give information to it and for public and private sectors to cut all commercial and advertising links to the station. The Al-Jazeera office in Kuwait was closed once before, in June 1999, after an Iraqi caller insulted the country's emir during a live broadcast. The satellite station, founded in 1996, irritates Arab leaders because it gives air-time to their opponents and to ordinary viewers and discusses taboo political and social topics. Relations between Jordan and Qatar have been tense in recent months since Jordan accused the station of stirring up unrest in the country and insulting the royal family. The station's office in Amman was briefly shut down in August.