Kuwait | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Kuwait

Kuwait

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

56

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

20

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

16

Kuwaiti journalists are among the freest and most outspoken in the region, with a constitution that provides for freedom of the press under Articles 36 and 37 and a government that respects these principles in practice, 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 that would limit the government monopoly on newspaper licensing, lessen prison sentences, and ban the closure of media without a court order; but by the end of 2005, the National Assembly still had not finished its debate over the proposed legislation. In January, an appeals court sentenced Ahmed al-Baghdadi to a one-year suspended sentence, a fine, and three years of probation for publishing an article in 2004 that criticized the Ministry of Education for increasing Islamic education lessons and cutting music classes.

Incidents involving Islamist militants and Kuwaiti security forces in January and February contributed to tensions involving press freedom in Kuwait in 2005. In January, Kuwaiti authorities detained Adel Aidan, a correspondent working for the Arabic satellite news channel Al-Arabiya, after it aired a report about clashes between Kuwaiti security services and suspected terrorists. He was charged with "undermining Kuwait's position internally and abroad" but was released several days later on bail and was acquitted in May. In February, Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah threatened to suspend or close newspapers that published information about the government's operations against suspected terrorists.

Most print media are privately owned and among the more vibrant in the region. There are five Arabic- and two English-language newspapers in Kuwait, but a new newspaper has not been launched in 30 years. 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 May, the government allowed Al-Jazeera, the regional satellite television channel, to reopen its offices, ending a nearly three-year hiatus after the government closed the channel's operations, ostensibly for security reasons. Kuwaitis have free access to the internet, although the government requires internet cafés to reveal customer identities on request, and in February the Ministry of Communication, in cooperation with some internet service providers, blocked websites it believed were inciting terrorism and instability.