Kuwait’s press free­doms on the de­cline

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Kuwait’s press free­doms took a mas­sive hit in 2016 ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Re­porters With­out Bor­ders rank­ing. Kuwait ranked 103 out of 180 coun­tries on the World Press Free­dom In­dex for 2016, drop­ping 13 spots from its 2015 po­si­tion. The in­ter­na­tional press free­dom or­ga­ni­za­tion warned that the world had seen a sharp in­crease in the global num­ber of jour­nal­ists de­tained or ‘dis­ap­peared’ and sub­ject to other forms of po­lit­i­cal cen­sor­ship or si­lenc­ing.

Kuwait ranks bet­ter than neigh­bors Qatar (117), United Arab Emi­rates (119), Bahrain (162), Saudi Ara­bia (165) and Iran (169). But has lost sig­nif­i­cant ground in the last few years. The oil-rich emi­rate is known as the most po­lit­i­cal vi­brant in the Gulf and has long had one of the most ac­tive me­dia and press en­vi­ron­ment in the re­gion.

But the 103 rank­ing for 2016 pales in com­par­i­son to Kuwait’s 2009 rank­ing of 60 and in­di­cates growing in­tol­er­ance from the Kuwait gov­ern­ment for any po­lit­i­cal crit­i­cism or com­men­tary.

Free­dom of speech and the press are pro­tected un­der the Kuwait Con­sti­tu­tion in Ar­ti­cles 36 and 37 but the 2006 Press and Pub­li­ca­tions law, the 2015 Cy­ber­crimes law and the 2016 E-Me­dia law place lim­its on press free­doms. Crit­i­cism of the Amir, Is­lam and the ju­di­ciary are pun­ish­able crimes as is any harm­ing of Kuwait’s re­la­tions with other coun­tries. In re­cent years, sev­eral jour­nal­ists, blog­gers and me­dia ac­tivists have faced jail time. “For the time be­ing, the nu­mer­ous UN res­o­lu­tions on the pro­tec­tion of jour­nal­ists [around the globe] and the fight against im­punity have not given sat­is­fac­tory re­sults,” the RWB noted in the re­lease of this year’s in­dex.

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