KUWAIT: The e-media law that was recently approved by the cabinet aroused severe criticism among political, cultural and legal groups who refused the law and described it as ‘muzzling,’ especially since the cabinet had been keeping a lid on the law’s details.

Kuwait Democratic Platform (KDP)’s Secretary General Ali Al-Awadhi said that KDP was still waiting to study the law’s draft to judge it. “Previous experiences have taught us not to trust government projects because they usually tend to set stricter penalties and restrictions that would destroy freedom of expression and of publishing information,” he said, noting that by passing the new law, the government was only after another attempt to kill public freedoms, which violates Article 36 of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the National Alliance (NA) Secretary General Bashar Al-Sayegh stressed that NA would strongly reject the law if it was passed without amending the articles pertaining to the strict penalties, namely on imprisonment. “We will strongly oppose the law in Parliament,” he promised noting that he had suggested so many amendments over the three days during which the Parliamentary Educational Affairs Committee discussed the law after consulting NGOs, local dailies and the owner of news websites. “Merging the e-media and the publication laws seems to be the government’s first step towards reviving the ‘unified media law’ which had been frozen for long,” he said.

More liberties needed
Also commenting on the law, vice president of the Arab Human Rights Organization and head of Kuwait’s Human Line Organization, Maha Al-Barjas stressed that local laws must match international treaties and agreements Kuwait had signed. She also noted that Kuwaiti laws must offer more liberties, especially since the world has become ‘an open village’ in view of the internet, social media networks and the development of e-media.

Kuwait University e-media professor Dr Bashayer Al-Sayegh said that the conservations made on the law were normal in Kuwait where people are used to freedom of expression, which also increased with the use of emedia. “However, this outbreak has had its positive as well as negative outcomes,” she remarked noting that this calls for regulating things through a clearly defined law that fully observes freedom of expression. In the meantime, editor-in-chief of Derwaza News Website, Salah Al-Allaj rejected the powers and control given to the Information Ministry through the new e-media law. “This dominance might force the owners of epapers to change them into blogs so that they could protected by the international community,” he said.

Alaan’s deputy editor-in-chief, Ahmed Salem, criticized the new e-media law because it stipulates penalties of up to KD 10,000 fines and prison. “This is completely against the current technological breakthrough,” he said. — Al-Qabas