The Emir of Kuwait has been asked to clarify draft law for regulating Internet
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard wrote requesting clarification of a draft law for regulating the Internet that was announced by the minister for religious endowment and Islamic affairs, Abdallah Al-Muhaylbi, who is also
the communications minister. The bill is currently being discussed by the ministries of communications and information:
Reporters Without Borders is closely following the current debate in your emirate about regulating and controlling online content. The minister for religious endowment and Islamic affairs, Abdallah Al-Muhaylbi, last week
told the newspaper Al Watan that the government plans to present a draft law for controlling and organising websites and political blogs with the aim of protecting public order, ensuring respect for decency and preserving the values of Kuwaiti
Our organisation is worried about the abuses that could be committed in the name of such a law and hopes that certain guarantees will be adopted to protect free expression before it is submitted to parliament.
Reporters Without Borders would therefore like to ask you to provide the clarification that is needed so that this bill can be understood. We appreciate that it is important to regulate the Internet but we also know that this type of law can lead
to online censorship. We remind you that in Kuwait, journalists can still be imprisoned for any activity contrary to national interests. The Internet must not be subjected to the same kind of abuses.
After months of planning, Kuwait's Public Prosecutors Office (PPO) is set to finalize a bill that will punish "Internet offenders" in the country.
It seems that constitutional freedoms no longer extend to Kuwait's large (and still growing) population of bloggers. Prosecutor General Hamed Al-Othman said that the bill will criminalize the promotion of immoral conduct, encouraging
anti-government sentiments, divulging state secrets, or insulting Islam online. Penalties for breaking the law could involve a 1-year prison sentence (7-years if the insulted party is a minor) and monetary fines.
Speaking of what this new law means for the future of free expression in Kuwait, one blogger told APN this law means two words: shut up. The blogger also noted that most of the Kuwait blogging community is opposing the looming law. This
law is a way to control what bloggers publish online; the government wants to know 'who is this blogger?' They want us to shut up so they are free to do anything they want. They can't handle the truth.
The blogger provided a list of tips on their website to help other bloggers stay out of trouble when the new Internet law takes effect. Among the tips is remove the times from comments and leave only dates. As the blogger explains to APN:
if I put a comment at 2:03:09 a.m., the government can call all ISP's here in Kuwait and ask for all IP's running at that time. This is more of a safety tip for the commenter than for the blogger. A scheduled publishing system is a way to protect
the blogger. For example, if at 8:00 p.m. I am at the cinema and I have a ticket and at 8:10 p.m. Blogger.com publishes my post, nobody can prove that I published the post.
Other tips for bloggers include using symbols or codes to refer to taboo public figures rather than their real names.
A Kuwaiti court has sentenced an online journalist to prison for supposedly insulting the ruling family on social media, according to news reports. Ayyad al-Harbi was ordered to begin serving the two-year jail sentence immediately, news reports
Police arrested al-Harbi on November 13 in connection with a series of posts he made to his personal Twitter account, starting in October, in which he criticized the government and called on authorities to stop oppressing Kuwaiti citizens,
according to news reports.
Al-Harbi's lawyer, Mohammed al-Humidi, said the journalist would be appealing, according to news reports.
Al-Harbi wrote opinion pieces for Sabr, a Kuwait-based independent website that publishes news and commentary. He wrote extensively about local issues including corruption and freedom of speech in the run-up to the December parliament election.
He has also written articles that have called on the Shia minority to revolt against corruption and criticized the government in connection with their attitudes on freedom of speech and women's rights.
Al-Harbi wrote a post on Twitter on January 6, accusing the government of corruption. The same day, he posted a prediction on Twitter, in which he said he would be indicted in the coming days for insulting the Alsabah ruling family, the same fate
met by Kuwaiti opposition activist Rashed al-Anzi, who had been convicted on the same charge the day before.
CPJ is alarmed by the prison sentence handed to Kuwaiti journalist Ayyad al-Harbi, said Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. We urge the Kuwaiti appellate court to reverse this conviction and uphold the nation's
commitment to freedom of expression.
On March 31, Hamad Al Khalidi was sentenced to two years in prison by a Kuwaiti lower court for insulting the Emir of Kuwait on Twitter. He has already begun serving his sentence, though his attorneys plan to file an appeal on April 8.
Al Khalidi personally announced the sentence via Twitter:
Because of my opinions I'm sentenced to two years imprisonment with forced labour!
Al Khalidi is one of dozens of opposition activists and former MPs who have either been sentenced to various jail terms or are on trial on similar charges...More than a dozen youth activists and former MPs have so far been handed down jail terms
following a clamp-down on opposition social network users and activists. Criticising the emir is illegal in Kuwait and is considered to be an offence against state security.
A teacher in Kuwait has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for tweets that insulted the country's ruler and encouraged his overthrow.
Huda al-Ajmi received the longest known sentence for online dissent in the Gulf state, according to Kuwaiti opposition groups.
She reportedly faced three separate charges that included insulting the Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, which carries a one-year sentence in itself. The other two five-year prison terms were given for inciting rebellion against the regime
and violating laws on public discussions.
Kuwait has not seen the same scale of pro-democracy uprisings as other Arab states but dozens of people across the Gulf region have been sentenced to jail for Twitter and blog posts in the past year.
Ms al-Ajmi will be able to appeal her three sentences.