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Kuwait shutting the voices?

Kuwait shutting the voices?

The country is considered to have the highest level of media freedom in the Arab world. But the number of defamation cases against journalists in the oil state is on the rise.

December 28, 2009 3:40 by

Reporters Without Borders also lists the case of Saad al-Ajimi, a correspondent for news channel A-Arabiya, who was sued last year for “insult” after a defamation case brought by the secretary general of the Salafist movement in Kuwait, Hamid al-Ali.

In August this year, Kuwaiti information minister Al-Sheikh Ahmad Abdallah al-Sabah suspended the airing of Sawtak Wasal, a political satire program on Scope TV after only three out of the program’s 15 episodes were broadcast.

“This arbitrary political decision is more than regrettable, especially as the Kuwaiti press is one of the freest in the region,” Reporters Without Borders said at the time. “Does this herald a change in Kuwait’s position on press freedom? The banning of a program that aimed to entertain viewers by parodying politicians has damaged its image. It is not a crime to parody. Criticism is a right, especially when it is done with humor. We urge the Kuwaiti authorities to rescind this ban,” the body said.

In January last year, a Kuwaiti court slapped a KD20,000 ($69,735) fine on TV channel Al Jazeera because it aired a program that apparently defamed Kuwait. The case related to an episode of the program Al-Ittijah al-Mouakiss aired in February 2002, in which an Egyptian commentator accused Kuwait of “stealing Iraq’s oil.”

Four Kuwaiti lawyers claimed the channel had “damaged Kuwaiti national sentiment” and “distorted the history of the country.”

The show’s host, Faisal al-Qassem told Reporters Without Borders that the channel was not responsible for what had happened and “does not always share the opinion of its contributors.” The journalist said that it was impossible to control guests’ dialogue on live debates.

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