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Kuwait and see

Kuwait and see

The editor of the Gulf’s oldest daily newspaper talks about why Kuwait is a leading light for press freedom, but no flagship for democracy


January 8, 2009 9:27 by

Abd Al-Rahman Alyan, 30, is not a man to mince words, and there’s little reason he should. As editor of the oldest daily in the Gulf region, Kuwait Times, Alyan enjoys considerably more freedom to speak his mind than most other Arab journalists. With the sole exception of criticizing the ruling Emir personally, Kuwaiti papers can say pretty much anything they like.

And, together, they say a lot. Since a 2006 press law ended the ban on new dailies, a slew of them has hit the stands, with five coming onto the market in 2007 and another three this year, bringing the total of number of dailies published in Kuwait to 17, with 14 in Arabic and three in English, according to the Middle East and North Africa Media Guide. That’s a lot of column inches for a country of just 3.5 million people.

What’s your 30-second assessment of the state of Arab media?
Throughout life, we’ve always had censorship, all over the media. In Kuwait, we don’t have that any more. This happened after the [first] Gulf War. They never set up the censorship bureau again and they stopped sending officers to us. Throughout Kuwait’s history, we’ve been pushing these restrictions to the limit. And we’ve reached where we are now, and I think the Kuwaiti media is the most vocal among all the Gulf media. Throughout the Gulf, we see print media in general improving – slowly, slowly. They do a fantastic job in the UAE. I think they’re still a bit restricted on local politics.

They’re often tiptoeing around things. Do you feel a need to do that here?
No, we don’t have to. The rules are clear. There’s only one thing we avoid, which is His Highness the Emir. We cannot write anything against him directly.

And the royal family?
The royal family is open. You can criticize the royal family – any member of the royal family. Even policies – you can criticize any policy, even if the Emir made the policy. That’s not an issue. You just don’t go slandering the person.

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