Several Kuwaiti MPs vow to reject draft media law

Bill reportedly includes new provisions, warnings and penalties

A Kuwait parliament special session. MPs have criticised provisions of a draft media bill. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Several members of Kuwait’s Parliament have vowed to reject a draft media law proposed by the government, when it is tabled for debate in October after the National Assembly's summer recess.

The bill includes new warnings and penalties, and notably prohibits criticising the Crown Prince or Deputy Emir.

The current law only outlaws criticism of “the person of His Highness the Emir of the country”.

The draft provides for prison terms of up to three years and fines ranging between 50,000 Kuwaiti dinars ($162,000) and 100,000 Kuwaiti dinars for offenders, local media reported on Monday.

The proposed law, which is being studied by six government agencies, would prohibit the publishing or display of any content that could be considered blasphemous.

It also prohibits the “infringement on the private life" of a public employee or National Assembly representative, including "attributing incorrect words or actions to them that involve defamation or abuse of his person”.

Since details were reported by the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Qabas , some MPs have said they would vote against the bill in October and demand the protection of the right of individuals to expression, as well as the abolition of any laws restricting such freedoms.

MPs also voiced concerns about the implications for journalists if the draft is passed into law.

The proposal stipulates punishment for those who publish reports on official secret communications or agreements and treaties concluded by the Kuwaiti government before they are announced officially, without permission from the concerned ministry.

Jenan Boushehri, the only woman elected to Parliament in June, said the bill would “jeopardise the essence of democracy”.

"I previously spoke with the Minister of Information about the media law and told him that the law should be for more responsible freedoms. We are not advocates of chaos or supporters of assaulting people's dignity,” she said.

Another MP, Muhalhel Al Mudhaf, said the law goes “against the constitution, its principles, contents and articles”.

The proposed legislation, a copy of which has been seen by The National, also includes regulations on films shown in cinemas and rules about music concerts in the country.

“Films are subject to censorship, with the aim of preserving spiritual values and adhering to the authentic customs and traditions of Kuwaiti society, and not disturbing public order, violating public morals, or violating laws,” the article says.

Kuwait recently made headlines as one of several countries in the Middle East to ban the Barbie film.

Updated: August 23, 2023, 2:00 PM