Police yesterday closed a printing house used by Al-Watan newspaper in the past few days after a judge froze decisions by the ministries of commerce and information to revoke the daily’s commercial and media licenses. In an urgent ruling last week, the emergency judge suspended the two decisions until Feb 18, when the administrative court is scheduled to rule whether a month-old decision by the commerce ministry to revoke Al- Watan’s license is legal or not. But the information ministry kept Al- Watan’s building shut, thus preventing the daily from using its facilities, especially its printing press, to print its edition.
As a result, the daily, owned by Sheikh Ali Al-Khalifa Al-Sabah and managed by his son Sheikh Khalifa, both members of the ruling family, used the alternative press to print, ignoring warnings by the information ministry to stop. A team from the information ministry tried to shut the printing press in the past three days but failed, which prompted the information ministry to seek the assistance of police.
According to witnesses, Sheikh Khalifa and Maj Gen Abdulfattah Al-Ali, a senior police officer, traded exchanges as the police enforced the closure. Reports were later circulating on social media that an arrest warrant was issued against Sheikh Khalifa for obstructing and insulting police while doing their duty.
Earlier in the day, Al-Watan’s lawyer Rashed Al-Radaan demanded the replacement of a judge looking into the government’s challenge to the emergency ruling allowing the daily to resume publication. Radaan said he requested the judge to be replaced because this was the same judge who issued two rulings against Al-Watan in the past, leading to its closure on both occasions. As a result, the judge postponed the case until Feb 22 to look into Al-Watan’s request. But this ruling will most likely become irrelevant if the administrative court rules on Feb 18 to reopen Al-Watan. The ministry of commerce had revoked the commercial license of Al-Watan on the grounds that the company lost more than 75 percent of its capital. The information ministry later revoked the daily’s media license because it lost its legal status as a company.