A judge presiding over emergency matters yesterday ruled that Al- Watan newspaper should be reopened and all procedures withdrawing its commercial and media licences should be suspended until the administrative court has ruled on the dispute. But the government immediately challenged the ruling, and the department executing court rulings refused to implement the verdict based on the government’s challenge, which is expected to be reviewed later. As a result, the legal battle for Al-Watan newspaper has become very intense and complex.
The administrative court which is handling the main dispute over the newspaper yesterday decided to delay a ruling on the matter until February 18, but refused to allow the newspaper to reopen. The government had already challenged a ruling last week allowing the newspaper’s building to reopen.
The case began last week when the ministry of commerce and industry revoked the commercial license of the daily under the pretext that it has accumulated losses of more than 75 percent of its capital. As a result, the information ministry immediately revoked the media license of the newspaper on the grounds that the company has ceased to exist legally after the commerce ministry withdrew its commercial license. Meanwhile, the National Assembly yesterday overwhelmingly rejected a request to debate the closure of Al-Watan in its session, with only six MP supporting the move.
MP Nabeel Al-Fadhl, who was a regular columnist in the daily for many years, criticized the information ministry for revoking the daily’s license. He asked the minister in a written question about the legal justification for revoking the media license of the newspaper even before the ministry of commerce’s decision had been verified by the court. He asked if the ministry decision was based on a legal opinion within the ministry or from the government’s legal department.
Fadhl also asked the commerce and industry minister on why the ministry revoked the license of Al-Watan directly and did not follow the normal procedures of taking the company to court.