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2 dailies suffer 2-week tape suspension ‘Legal error’

KUWAIT CITY, April 20, (Agencies): The Information Ministry said it has been informed about a court decision to suspend Al- Watan and Alam Al- Youn newspapers for a couple of weeks for failing to comply with an earlier ban ordered by the Public Prosecutor on publishing information related to Case No. 1241/2013. The ministry said in a statement it has already notified the two newspapers of the suspension decision just as prescribed by the law. But, it noted that its responsibility is restricted to applying the law, while respecting media freedom and court verdicts and decisions.

The ministry made it clear that the suspension of the two newspapers was due to publishing articles and views on the case which could affect relevant investigations by the Public Prosecution, and could even undermine the national interest. “I do not think we talked about the tape more than any other newspaper,” Al Watan editor-in-chief Sheikh Khalifa Ali al-Khalifa al-Sabah told Reuters. “This is a great legal error,” he said, citing a notice from the Information Ministry about the verdict.

Sheikh Khalifa, a member of Kuwait’s Al Sabah ruling family, said the newspaper would contest the decision and continue to update its website. It would not publish its print edition from Monday, he added. Alam Alyawm editor Abdulhameed al-Da’as said his newspaper had also received a notice about the verdict on Sunday and would cease publication for two weeks. Alam Alyawm is a separate publication to Al Watan and is close to Kuwait’s political opposition.

Its front page on Sunday said there was an “uprising against the closure of the newspaper,” and featured comments from politicians and media figures against the expected suspension. Kuwait’s courts do not comment to the media about cases. The Kuwait Journalists Association (KJA) has denounced steps taken by the government to prohibit various information media outfits from exercising their rights, which are protected by the Constitution as per its stipulation on guaranteeing freedom of speech, reports Al-Seyassah daily.

In its recent statement regarding the gag order imposed by the Attorney General, the association asserted such orders from the government will have a negative impact on the status of Kuwait, both regionally and internationally. It has warned on the repercussions of orders that are not issued by the judicial authority.

The association is closely following up with great concern news on the government’s decision to suspend two daily newspapers - Al-Watan Arabic and Alam Al-Youm - for two weeks as penalty for violating the gag order on the controversial tape, which is now in the hands of the Public Prosecution. The association affirmed its respect for the prosecution but the decision to suspend the newspapers should be issued by the judiciary as a final ruling, so the concerned newspapers could present their defense to the court to clarify their positions and actions.

According to the association, its national responsibility includes safeguarding the rights of journalists and freedom of expression; warning the gag order may damage the image of Kuwait in the international political arena.

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