Kuwait raises media pressure with fines

Kuwait raises media pressure with fines

KUWAIT CITY - Agence France-Presse
Kuwait raises media pressure with fines

Criticizing the Kuwaiti emir Emir al-Sabah is already under penal code. AFP photo

Kuwait’s Cabinet has approved a new media bill stipulating a 10-year jail term for religious offences and a fine of more than $1 million for criticizing the emir, local media reported yesterday.

The government of the oil-rich Gulf state has not released the “combined media law” but local newspapers published leaked details. To become effective, the new law must be passed by the pro-government Parliament and signed by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

Control on social media

The draft bill proposes a jail term of up to 10 years for insulting God, Prophet Muhammad, his companions and wives, and other prophets. The same penalty applies to those instigating the overthrow of the regime. It also stipulates a fine of between $175,000 and $1.05 million for criticizing the emir or the crown prince. Under the existing law, critics of the emir are tried under the penal code and face a jail term of up to five years. Kuwait has jailed several opposition tweeters and former MPs on such charges and many others are on trial.

Besides conventional media such as newspapers and television, the draft bill extends government control to all social networks including Twitter, blogs and electronic publications, which require a license from the information ministry.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Border strongly lashed out at the draft law describing it a “draconian” and urged Parliament to reject it. “If adopted by the national assembly, this law would pose a terrible threat to media freedom and would certainly not ‘bolster’ the media,” the group said.