Prime minister threatens to censor newspapers

Your Highness:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned by recent statements Your Highness made threatening to suspend or shut down newspapers that publish information related to the Kuwaiti government’s current fight against religious extremists.

In a meeting Monday with leading Kuwaiti editors, you warned that the Cabinet would suspend or permanently close newspapers that published information about ongoing state investigations of terrorism suspects or unauthorized information about the country’s security situation, according to international and local press reports, as well as Kuwaiti journalists who spoke with CPJ.

“What a journalist considers a journalistic scoop could be, from a security perspective, harmful to the safety of security forces or the ongoing investigations with the detained, and help the terrorists deflect the security forces pursuing them,” the daily Al-Watan quoted you as saying.

One editor who attended the meeting said editors were also advised that their reporting on the state’s battle with militants should conform with official information from the Ministry of Interior. He said officials were prepared to carry out the closures in accordance with Article 35 of the Press Law, which empowers authorities to suspend or close publications.

Kuwaiti journalists told CPJ that government officials claimed that some press reports about militant suspects provided details, such as the type of car suspects were driving, that helped them elude capture. Another report about an alleged militant threat to attack Shiite religious sites also angered officials.

Journalists also suspect that several columns recently published in the daily Al-Qabas harshly criticizing the government for allegedly abetting religious extremism have also upset authorities.

Censoring newspapers violates the most fundamental precepts of a free press, and closing down newspapers represents a serious setback for press freedom in Kuwait. A free press is essential to the functioning of an open society, especially in times of crisis, when citizens need unfettered information to make informed choices.

We urge Your Highness to do everything in your power to ensure that journalists in Kuwait can practice their profession freely, without government interference.
I thank you for your attention to this most important matter and look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.


Ann Cooper
Executive Director