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Al Watan, Alam Al-Youm suspended for two weeks – Newspapers closed for breaking media blackout

KUWAIT: The Ministry of Information announced yesterday that a judicial order was issued to close the Al-Watan and Alam Al-Youm newspapers for two weeks for violating a ban on news regarding the ‘conspiracy videotape’. The ministry said it has conveyed the order to the two newspapers, adding the order was based on a request by the public prosecution because the two newspapers broke a news blackout on the videotape that shocked the country.

The ministry said in a statement that its role is limited to implementing the law and the orders of the judiciary. The order to shut the two newspapers came after they published reports that could undermine the investigation in the case that was debated in a closed session by the National Assembly last week, the ministry said. Legal sources said the two newspapers received the closure order mainly for publishing a statement by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahd Al-Sabah in response to a statement issued by National Assembly Speaker Marzouk Al- Ghanem last week regarding the closed door session.

The government told the Assembly last week the videotapes were tampered with and are not reliable, KUNA reported. Al-Watan newspaper is owned by Sheikh Ali Al- Khalifa Al-Sabah, a former minister and a member of the ruling family, while Alam Al-Youm is close to the political opposition. Speaking after receiving the order, Sheikh Khalifa said the newspaper will stop publication but will continue to update its website. He also said the paper will start legal procedures today to challenge the order which he said was based on a wrong understanding of the law.

Alam Al-Yawm editor Abdulhameed Al-Da’as said his newspaper had also received a notice about the verdict yesterday and would cease publication for two weeks. Its front page yesterday featured comments from politicians and media figures against the expected suspension. A large number of lawmakers also blasted the suspension decision, with reports saying that a number of MPs are contemplating to file a request to grill the information minister over the move.

The lawmakers insisted that the closure decision undermines press freedom in Kuwait and called for measures to amend the press law. Reporters Without Borders ranks Kuwait at 91 out of 180 countries in its 2014 World Press Freedom Index, above all other states in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

Meanwhile, MPs Abdulkareem Al-Kandari, Hussein Quwaiaan and Riyadh Al-Adasani met yesterday at the Assembly to coordinate plans for filing a request to grill Prime Minister HH Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah. Kandari said the grilling request will focus on the general policy of the government and will be submitted this week to ensure it will be on the agenda of the Assembly session on April 29. In a related development, MP Abdullah Al-Turaiji said yesterday that he is coordinating with MP Mubarak Al- Harees to file a request to grill Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Sabah. Turaiji said they had sent a series of questions to the minister over a variety of issues, adding that they have not yet set a date for filing the grilling. MP Safa Al-Hashem is also preparing to file to grill Justice and Awqaf Minister Nayef Al-Ajmi later this month

By B Izzak

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This article was published on 21/04/2014