Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Articles 36 and 37 of Kuwait's constitution provide for freedom of the press, and the media are generally free to criticize the government, with some important exceptions. The Printing and Publications Law and the penal code restrict criticism of the emir and articles that might harm relations with other states, jeopardize the value of the Kuwaiti dinar, or offend moral sensibilities. In addition, the law restricts material deemed offensive to religion or an incitement to hatred or violence. The government arbitrarily enforces these laws, and as a result many journalists practice self-censorship. The Kuwaiti government introduced a new draft press law in 2003, but by the end of 2004, the national assembly had not finished its debate over the proposed legislation. The draft law would remove certain restrictions on licenses for new newspapers, outlaw the arrests and detention of journalists, and ban the closure of any publication without a court order. In June 2004, the national assembly failed to convene a special session on the draft press law when not enough members showed up to achieve a quorum. In August, the government banned Fahrenheit 9/11, a documentary by American filmmaker Michael Moore, for being critical of Saudi Arabia's royal family. Information Ministry officials justified the decision by saying that Kuwaiti law prohibits insulting friendly nations.
Most print media are privately owned and among the more vibrant in the region. However, publishers must obtain a license from the Ministry of Information to start a newspaper, and there is no formal process to appeal if a license is not granted. In October, the cultural weekly Al-Shaab was suspended for three months after printing political news and thus violating the terms of its license. The government owns five television channels and the local radio station, but satellite dishes are widely available. In 2002, the government closed down offices of the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera on allegations of defaming the government. October 2004 witnessed the inauguration of the country's first private satellite television channel, Al-Rai, which broadcasts news, dramas, and religious programs. Kuwaitis have free access to the Internet, though some Internet service providers have blocked access to certain Web sites and the government requires Internet cafes to reveal customer identities on request.