Kuwait tightens online media laws

Published January 14th, 2016 - 05:00 GMT
Kuwaiti MPs, Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Khaled al-Sabah (R) and Foreign Minister Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah take part in a parliament session at Kuwait's National Assembly on January 13, 2016. (AFP/Yasser al-Zayyat)
Kuwaiti MPs, Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Khaled al-Sabah (R) and Foreign Minister Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah take part in a parliament session at Kuwait's National Assembly on January 13, 2016. (AFP/Yasser al-Zayyat)

Kuwait passed new legislation Wednesday to regulate all online "professional" media, a day after a controversial cybercrimes law went into effect, AFP reported.

The new law covers all forms of electronic media, including web-based news services, newspaper and television portals and commercial services.

A strong majority of MPs voted in favor of it, with thirty-seven members voting for the law, while four opposed it. Those who opposed the law said it would further limit freedom of speech.

"I believe that the government wants to use this law like the others to curb freedoms," said MP Jamal al-Omar, who said that the legislation violates Kuwait's constitution.

Sheikh Salman Humoud al-Sabah, Kuwait's Information Minister, said that the new law only regulates professional media, but does not apply to personal accounts like blogs.

Under the new law, publications must have a government license to operate, and violations will be referred to Kuwait's media law, stipulating jail terms for various offenses.

Amnesty International on Tuesday also denounced the cybercrimes law in Kuwait, calling it "repressive."

The cybercrimes law criminializes criticism of the government, religious leaders, and foreign leaders.

Dozens of people in Kuwait have already been arrested and prosecuted, some even handed down jail sentences, under the cybercrimes law for comments on social media sites.

This law, which was passed by parliament in June, stipulates 10-year prison sentences and fines up to $165,000, particularly if deemed related to terrorism.


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