Kuwait media curbs make sense

Despite a commitment to press freedom, an Arabic-language columnist supports curbs on the media in Kuwait. Today's other excerpts from Arabic media touch on the timing for the PA's move at the UN, Syria's and Lebanon's stance against Israel, and the E.coli outbreak.

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Kuwait: when a leash on media is apropos

The Kuwaiti cabinet has lately approved sanctions against media outlets accused of stoking sectarian sentiment, wrote Abdul Rahman al Rashed, a columnist with the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat. If found guilty, media executives would face up to seven years in jail and confiscation of media equipment.

"As a journalist I hold freedom of expression to be sacred, and I reject any form of media clampdown or censorship. Yet, despite this deep-seated conviction, I find myself forced to tolerate putting a leash on sectarian media and criminalising any form of sectarian incitement such as we have seen rise to the surface recently between Sunnis and Shiites or between Muslims and Copts."

Of course, in time of stability, faith-related debates are part of freedom of speech, but in time of trouble, as is the case these days, religious polemics are just a shortcut to bloodshed.

"I realise it's despicable censorship and a worrying entryway to muzzle freedom of speech, but how can you stop the looming war between the Sunnis and the Shiites that is primarily inflamed by none other than the media, unfortunately?"

If Kuwait succeeds in containing the crime of "sectarian sedition" in this way, its decision will be a model for other states (Bahrain, Iraq, Yemen, etc.) that are also sitting on the crater of a Shiite-Sunni volcano.

Will the PA honour September promise?

A poll conducted by a Palestinian news agency found that 88 per cent of Palestinian respondents expect an unstable political situation and confrontations with the Israeli occupation before September, wrote Amjad Arar, a columnist with the Emirati newspaper Al Khalee.

The Palestinian Authority had announced that in September it will formally demand full membership of the Palestinian Territories in the United Nations based on the 1967 borders. In its decision, the PA relied on a "vague" statement by the US president, Barack Obama, in which he set the month of September as a deadline for a settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians' pessimistic prediction stems from a long and bitter experience with unkept promises and flouted timetables. After their first intifada in 1987, the Palestinians heard from their leadership that statehood was "a stone's throw away".

"They had to fight Israeli bullets with stones for the following seven years, until the Oslo Accords were signed." However, the timelines stipulated in these Oslo Accords for "final status" negotiations were not respected. And the list of binned timetables goes on, true to Yitzhak Rabin's quote: "There are no sacred dates".

"We're not asking the PA to refrain from knocking on the UN's doors, we're simply hoping that it will not raise people's expectations so high."

More logical roles for Arab-Israeli conflict

An old dream is on the verge of materialising, observed Satea Noureddin, a columnist with the Lebanese daily Assafir. This would put a new spin on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Syria becomes a front for resistance while Lebanon converts itself into a platform for objection. Thus, the distribution of roles returns to its normal logic based on the elements and balances of power.

This was the first impression from the Naksa Day popular march in Syria towards the Israeli front line in the Golan Heights. This ended with a new massacre that produced 23 Syrian and Palestinian martyrs. All the while, the Lebanese southern front line witnessed an unprecedented calm that could be described as historical.

"What makes this swap in roles especially important is that it wasn't agreed upon in advance. In fact, it was almost a historical departure on how to manage the conflict with the enemy."

Some could allege that the Palestinians are exploiting the internal turmoil in Syria, which allows them to march toward the borders to face the Israelis. Others suspect that Damascus has been enticing crowds to provoke the Israelis. But, in either case, the outcome is that that front, calm since the October war in 1973, is no longer tranquil.

"It is a fair distribution of roles that rectifies the mistake of the '70s about Lebanon."

Immediate measures to prevent panic

The world is in a state of terror caused by the E.coli threat, which brings to mind the swine flu epidemic that terrorised the world in 2009, commented the Emirati daily Al Bayan in its editorial.

"The world no longer cares for the western media's focus on the dangers of epidemics, as the pattern shows that their objectives are for the most part commercial. However, this doesn't exempt the World Health Organisation, despite its loss of credibility following the 2009 events, from summoning a meeting to determine the truth of the matter.

"It is also of the essence that concerned ministers in the Arab world convene to clearly instruct people on whether to worry or not. People shouldn't fall prey to media exaggerations."

The ball is now in the court of the ministries of health and environment. Measures should be expeditious, especially since the people of the Arab world have lost confidence in the reports of European and global health organisations.

"We ask the relevant officials at the GCC and the Arab League to conduct laboratory analyses as soon as possible to guide people on how to deal with this new threat."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk