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Nod to Electronic Media Law – Shias boycott

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 13: The Parliament on Wednesday approved the Electronic Media Draft Law in its fi rst and second readings, with 37 members in favor and four against. In the amended version of the draft law, the Parliament added a clause on the cancellation of the license of a website in case the owner dies. The new clause states that in case of the owner’s death, the license will be cancelled if there is no heir or if the heir failed to transfer the license within the specifi ed period.

The amended draft law states that the concerned minister shall issue a decision on license applications within 30 days from the date of submitting the application. If a decision is not taken when this period lapses, the application is considered rejected.

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. He confi rmed 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. He stressed Kuwait is a State of laws and it will not allow anyone to harm its people. He asserted, “We seek balanced relationships with everyone. We do not want the electronic media sector to clash with others, especially if it carries the national identity and it is licensed in Kuwait. The draft law has taken into account all aspects of the freedom of expression.”

The minister clarifi ed this law does not cover individuals and it does not restrict their freedom, as it is applicable to reputable electronic media platforms in a bid to make Kuwait worthy of emulation in terms of granting freedoms.

Commenting on the draft law, Chairman of the Education Committee MP Ouda Al-Ruwaie clarified the government referred the draft law to the panel last year. He said the panel took into consideration the opinions of experts, organizations, civil institutions and owners of websites. He disclosed the draft law consists of 27 articles which are in line with the Constitution.

He cited Article Two which stipulates the State’s religion is Islam, “so we cannot stand looking at this world of technology without taking any step to regulate the electronic media in order to protect the pillars of society.” In another development, the Parliament also approved the bill on amending the Press Law in its first and second readings. The revised version of the law includes stipulations on anything published by websites and other electronic applications.

Meanwhile, the Parliament allocated two hours of the session to discuss the current regional situation behind closed doors. This was followed by the issuance of an official statement; indicating that the escalating regional tension requires coordinated efforts in maintaining the sovereignty, security and stability of GCC countries.

The legislative authority pointed out in the statement that all its members remain committed to Kuwait’s belief in the wellestablished political history of the nation to promote the principles of sovereignty, security, stability and non-interference in internal affairs of other countries, while exerting efforts to maintain peace in its territories. The Parliament outrightly rejected practices or policies deemed harmful to the sovereignty, stability and security of GCC countries, particularly those concerning the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It also reaffirmed support for the Kingdom in its bid to maintain stability and security in the region. It reiterated full support for the political leadership and trust in the positions taken by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in order to cope with the unusual political developments in the region. It then emphasized the need to strengthen national unity, which is regarded as a safety valve for Kuwait, considering the recent incidents in the region. Moreover, the Parliament approved the bill on amending the Economic and Social Planning Law in its first and second readings, with 41 votes in favor and one against. The report of the Handicapped Committee on the rights of people with disabilities was also approved in the first and second readings. This is in addition to the approval of the Commercial Companies Bill in its first and second readings.

The Parliament also agreed on the need to activate Article 65 of the Constitution in a bid to lessen the period for the publication of ratified commercial and combating corruption laws in the official gazette from one month to one week only. Furthermore, the Parliament asked the State Audit Bureau to check all documents related to the sale of agricultural products and driving schools. It also agreed to extend the period given to the Public Utilities Committee to follow up the recommendations in the interpellation motion against former Minister of Public Works Abdul Aziz Al-Ibrahim until the end of the current legislative term. Lastly, the Parliament unanimously approved the Anti-Corruption Authority Draft Law in its first and second readings. During deliberations on the draft bill, the Parliament rejected the recommendation to apply the law on public benefit societies and Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI). It also rejected the proposal to renew the four-year tenure of the Board of Trustees of the authority. The existing law stipulates that the board should serve only for four years. The Parliament then moved to discuss the joint committee on authorizing the government to take a certain amount from the general reserve to boost the defense budget.

The proposal to allocate KD 3 billion for upgrading the country’s defense system was unanimously approved in the first and second readings. Speaking during discussion of the proposal, Minister of Defense Sheikh Khalid Al-Jarrah revealed the Parliament is introducing a law on the allocation of KD 3 billion, which will be distributed within a period of 10 years, for the development of armament including aircraft, tanks and air defense. He stated that even though Kuwait is linked with super power countries through their defense agreements, it is still required to upgrade its own defense system. He argued, “Friendly countries do not protect us, we have to defend ourselves.

The last time we had a law like this was in 1992 so the military devices are outdated. I ask the members of the Parliament to ratify this law.” He admitted Kuwait has no ability to sign an agreement to pay the full amount at once as it is impossible to spend KD 2.8 million from its annual budget, adding the last aircraft will be delivered in 2020. Talking about the same proposal, Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh stressed this is similar to other laws in terms of being subject to the State Audit Bureau and Financial Control Bureau in their capacity as oversight authorities. He affirmed the Future Generations Fund will not be affected as there are studies on various ways to address the deficit such as bonds issuance. “We want the defense budget to come with a special law, so it will be construed as the general budget of the State,” he added. Lastly, the report of the Financial Affairs Committee on the extension of insurance protection for GCC military personnel was also approved. Parliament Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim adjourned the session until Jan 26, 2016.

By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff

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