Kuwait - Several media suspended for violating ban on coup probe coverage

by Reporters Without Borders | Reporters Without Borders
Monday, 28 April 2014 05:14 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the 20 April decision by the public prosecutor's office to suspend several news media that defied a two-month-old ban on covering an investigation into videotapes that allegedly reveal plans to stage a coup d'état.

Two daily newspapers, Al-Watan and Alam Al-Yaoum, and two TV stations owned by Al-Watan have been ordered to suspend operations for two weeks. The public prosecutor claims that the blackout is necessary because news coverage could undermine the investigation.

"The prosecutor's ban on media coverage of this case is a grave violation of freedom of information" said Soazig Dollet, head of the Reporters Without Borders Middle East and North Africa desk. "The absurd and iniquitous suspension of several news outlets again shows that the authorities are bent on controlling the media and, in this case, suppressing coverage of a sensitive political investigation."

Articles in Al-Watan's 13 and 14 April issues claimed that former senior officials were involved in the alleged coup conspiracy.

In a press release, the information ministry announced that "it had been informed of the public prosecutor's decision to suspend the two newspapers for two weeks for defying "a prohibition on publishing reports on case 2013/1241 ."

Al-Watan editor-in-chief Waleed Al-Jassim reported that "two TV stations belonging to Al-Watan have also been suspended."

Al-Watan publisher Sheikh Khalifa Ali Al-Khalifa told Reuters that "the staff did not understand why they had been punished because they had done "nothing illegal." He added that "the newspaper would continue to publish on its website because the site came under a "different jurisdiction" and had not been closed".

Several parliamentarians have criticized the suspensions and have called for changes to the media law.

Kuwait fell 13 places in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and is now ranked 91st out of 180 countries.