Court fines a journalist and two newspapers in Kuwait

New York, March 8, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a Kuwaiti court’s decision to fine a journalist and two newspapers for statements deemed offensive to the ruling family and the prime minister.

On Sunday, a criminal court in Kuwait fined opposition writer and journalist Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem 3,000 Kuwaiti dinars (US$10,500) for publishing an article in November critical of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who is also a member of the ruling family, according to local news reports. The article alleged that media outlets backed by the prime minister had been stoking tensions between the country’s Sunni and Shiite communities. Al-Jassem’s lawyer, Abdulkarim Haidar, said he would appeal the decision. The independent daily Alam Al-Youm, which published the article, was also fined the same amount.

“We urge the Kuwaiti judiciary to overturn these sentences,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “The press should be able to freely criticize government officials even if they are members of the ruling family. It is outrageous that criticizing public officials is a crime in Kuwait.”

In a separate case, the same court fined the daily Al-Ru`ya, which published an interview with Member of Parliament Mohammad Hayef, in which he criticized divisions in the ruling family. Both the paper and the MP were fined 3,000 Kuwaiti dinars (US$10,500).