Every September, the world celebrates the International Day of Democracy by finding ways to invigorate democracy and overcome the systematic challenges it is facing.
Kuwait’s democracy is at the highest level among Arabian Gulf countries as people can criticize the action or decisions of others. They are free to comment or give an opinion about politicians and State officials who are in high positions and in charge of taking decisions regarding the rights of citizens.
Media is very open as people can report whatever they see anywhere and give their opinion about it. Still, there are red lines that the media should not cross, such as verbal attack on the leadership or abusing religions or writing about an issue that could undermine national security or the State system. The State should control freedom of speech and expression of opinion, but it should not restrict people’s right to speak or comment on events and news which affect their lives.
Although Kuwait guarantees freedom of speech, it is still limited and insufficient compared to other developed countries. In previous years, a number of people were convicted and imprisoned because of their opinions on political or social matters. The issues were sensitive such that people said they were “convicted because of their opinions.” Upon reviewing their speeches, one does not find any insulting word stipulated in the Criminal Law so as to penalize them but the opinions were unacceptable. In other countries where democracy is better, no one is “convicted because of his opinion.”
The International Day of Democracy reminds us how important it is to fight for our rights, one of which is our right to say what we want to say without the fear of being jailed provided we do so in a respectful manner and without crossing any red line.
By Atyab Alshatti, Esq.