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Mixed reaction to new e-media draft law – ‘Careful what you say on Net’

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 20: In this week’s Arab Times online poll, readers weighed in on the new media law with the respondents equally concerned about its potential for curtailing free speech and its necessity for meting out harsher punishment for sympathizers of terror organizers. Last week, the Parliament on Wednesday approved the Electronic Media Draft Law.

During deliberations on the draft law, Information Minister Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Hamoud Al- Sabah explained the draft law regulates electronic media in order to keep pace with the information and technology revolution, and to protect the rights of the people, as reported in the Arab Times. He had also stressed coordination with many concerned authorities and consultations with electronic media experts to ensure that the law is in line with the Constitution, particularly the stipulation on freedom of expression. 37% of respondents felt that the new law would suppress free speech. “I think any increase in government controls should make us apprehensive.

This law gives the authorities latitude to punish any opposing ideas”, a voter shared. “Kuwait used to be tolerant and open, people could think freely and speak freely. But this is no longer the case. We have to be very careful of what we share on the Internet because the language of these laws leave enough room for reprimand”, another respondent noted. Another 37% welcomed the law as it would bring harsher punishment for sympathizers of terror organizations. “I think this law is necessary for social stability and to keep radicalization in check.

Extremists are inciting the young and recruiting people through online propaganda. We can no longer underestimate the Internet and social media sites”, another voter opined. 10% of respondents felt that the law would be effective in penalizing those who raise funds online illegally in the name of charity while 7% of voters felt that the law was long overdue to contend with cybercrimes in the country. “I think it is high time we had laws to protect people against hacking and retrieval of personal data, online fraud, and other online crimes.” 6% felt that the new law would be beneficial as blogs and web pages publishing news will need a license to operate and 2% felt that the law would stifle criticism of the government, religious figureheads or foreign leaders. “I think the requirement for those publishing news online to have a license and be monitored by the government is good as it will increase accountability. There are so many online portals collating the news from other media outlets and publishing reports and updates from the public without any verification. I think if this makes the content more reliable, it will benefit us. Of course, on the flipside, it can be used to silence dissent by online policing”, a concerned voter shared.

By Cinatra Fernandes Arab Times Staff

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