The Kuwait Society for Human Rights organized a seminar on Monday to discuss the draft of a new law that would regulate electronic publishing, websites, blogs and social media in Kuwait. The society deems the new law unconstitutional and a violation of Kuwait’s protected freedom of expression. Attended by experts and media representatives, the seminar was conducted by lawyer Mohammed Al-Rashidi, who stressed that freedom of opinion is guaranteed according to the Kuwaiti constitution, and called on the attendees to discuss and study all texts that are incompatible with human rights, reports Kuwait Times.
In August, Minister of Information and State Minister for Youth Affairs Sheikh Salman Al-Sabah noted in a press statement that a new law organizing the electronic media was in its final stage of preparedness at the National Assembly. He said it was necessary to wait for the input of lawmakers regarding this law which would regulate electronic media, including the Internet, radio and TV broadcasting and electronic news services, among others.
Unified media law
Walid Al-Ahmad, a writer and political analyst at the Arabic Al-Rai newspaper, said the draft e-publishing law is new for the media industry in Kuwait, pointing out that the government had previously declined to issue a unified media law.
Speaking for the need for some type of regulation, Ahmad noted: “We need freedom, but there were many rumors on electronic media. For example, rumors that were issued about the death of the late Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait show we are here not only to attack this bill, but to support the role of non-profit organizations to address matters that are exaggerated in this law.” He noted that fines in the new e-publishing law are very high, “especially for young owners of websites or blogs”, pointing out that they should be given a chance.
Meanwhile, Badr Al-Hajji, professor at Kuwait University, said the draft law is full of loopholes, pointing out that it was prepared in haste. “The government has to accept the consequences that may result from freedom of expression, since Kuwait is known as a free country,” he said.
“It is important to understand the differences between the owners of media organizations and people who post comments on Twitter,” said Tariq Boresly, a writer at Al-Anbaa newspaper. He note that owners of media organizations can afford to pay fines, but people who tweet are ordinary people, not organizations. “I’m with the law, and wish it is structured in commensuration to the size of Kuwait’s media,” he added.
“We are facing a need to organize the industry, which is not an easy thing to change. All things in life must be regulated with preserving freedoms, and so does the e-publishing law,” the head of the Kuwaiti Union of Lawyers Nasser Al-Haifi said.