Freedom of speech in Kuwait

Attorney Fajer Ahmed

A social media activist is facing up to 20 years in jail on what may seem is his social media use and political view, but it is more complicated than that. He did not attend any court sessions for the criminal charges against him over a video he created, and therefore the court found him guilty. Before I go ahead and describe the implications of freedom of speech in Kuwait, I would like to make a few points clear:

1. I am blessed to not only have the freedom to write legal advice and my opinion on public platforms, but to also have complete freedom in what I decide to write.

2. We are very blessed in Kuwait to enjoy an extremely progressive constitution and laws compared to other countries in the region.

3. Freedom of speech is not absolute – nowhere in the world. There will always be consequences for what you say.

Twitter posts
Question: Do I have the right to speak about anything I would like on Twitter and be protected from being accused of a crime because of “freedom of speech” under the Kuwaiti constitution?
Fajer: As I mentioned above, freedom of speech is not absolute. The constitution states in Article 36 that “freedom of opinion and of scientific research shall be guaranteed. Every person shall have the right to express and propagate his opinion verbally, in writing or otherwise, in accordance with the conditions and procedures specified by law”. The constitution, as it should, grants everyone the right to express their feelings and opinions, but clearly states that this should be in accordance with procedures set out in the law.

There are plenty of crimes that can happen on a social media account, regardless if the law mentions that the crime has to happen on social media or not. For example, you can be penalized for swearing at someone or for promoting hate, even if the articles for those crimes do not mention where the crime has to be committed. A crime on Twitter or any other social media is seen as if the crime happened in Kuwait if the person behind the account is living in Kuwait.
We might not understand what power we have to influence others through social media. Remember that even though you should always be able to share your opinions and feelings, don’t forget to try to be respectful to others, regardless of what the law states.

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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed

This article was published on 28/01/2018