Kuwaiti daily suspended for ‘creating sectarian strife’

New York, March 5, 2012–Kuwaiti authorities must lift their suspension of the privately owned newspaper Al-Dar and drop antistate charges lodged in connection with articles that sought to defend the country’s Shiite minority, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Kuwait’s Press Court today extended the suspension of Al-Dar for the second time since February 2, Abdul Hussein al-Sultan, Al-Dar‘s editor-in-chief, told CPJ. The newspaper must remain out of circulation for at least another week, until March 12, when the court is scheduled to meet again, he said.

Kuwait’s Press Court met in what it called an emergency session on February 2, during which it first suspended the paper for two weeks, al-Sultan told CPJ. No representative of the paper was present. Authorities accused the paper of violating the Press and Publications Law by “undermining national unity” and “creating sectarian strife,” the editor said. The suspension was continued once in mid-February.

On January 30, 31, and February 1, the paper published three articles defending the country’s Shiite minority and responding to local newspapers’ articles that called Kuwaiti Shiites “Iranian spies” and “disbelievers,” the editor said. The newspaper said the comments threatened national unity and encouraged sectarianism.

Al-Sultan said he believed the paper was suspended in part to prevent it from reporting on the February 2 parliamentary elections.

“The case against Al-Dar should be dropped and the newspaper should be allowed to resume publication immediately,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Writing in defense of a minority group should not be considered a threat to national unity.”

The newspaper has repeatedly been targeted over the past three years, al-Sultan said. The Ministry of Information has brought 133 cases against the newspaper, one of which led to a fine of 2,000 Kuwaiti dinars (US$7,173) for writing “unfavorably” about the intervention of Saudi Arabian troops in Bahrain in early 2011, the journalist said. He said this was the first time the authorities had reacted to their coverage by shutting the paper.