Kuwait’s Cassation Court on Monday upheld a ruling by the Court of Appeals in May to shut down Al Watan newspaper. The decision is final and cannot be appealed. Al Watan’s woes started in January when the Ministry of Commerce shut down the privately owned publishing house responsible for issuing the daily, citing finance-related corporate violations.
Reports said that the financial losses were estimated to be more than three quarters of the publishing house’s capital.
Al Watan attributed the decision to close it down to politically driven motives, particularly that its stances were often critical of the government.
However, the government rejected the claims, insisting that it was applying the law and that there were no political reasons involved.
“People want the government to apply the law, but some of them are quick to claim that we are politicising issues,” Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah Al Mubarak Al Sabah, the state minister for cabinet affairs, said in January.
The Administrative Court in February upheld the decision by the ministry to shut down the daily, explaining that the closure was not related to freedom of expression.
Al Watan, owned by Shaikh Ali Al Khalifa Al Adhbi Al Sabah, was first published on June 5, 1962 as a weekly. However, it became a daily on January 17, 1974.
In April last year, a Kuwaiti court ordered the suspension of Al Watan and Alam Al Youm newspapers for two weeks for breaking a media blackout ordered by prosecutors on a videotape featuring government officials allegedly plotting a coup in Kuwait.
In June, the Ministry of Information cancelled the licences of three television channels — Al Watan, Al Watan Plus and Al Watan Ghanawi channels operated by the media group that owns the daily.
Al Watan consequently dismissed its print staff and reduced the number of webteam employees running its online edition.
The daily told the editors and personnel that they would be given their financial dues following the decision of the Court of Cassation.