Freedom of speech is a principle that has been discussed on multiple occasions in Kuwait. In fact, Kuwait has been the center of attention when it comes to freedom of speech in the MENA region, as we have always had and continue to have more rights than our neighbors when it came to expressing our opinion. But what does freedom of speech mean? Freedom of speech is an idea that a person or a group of people can express their opinions and ideas without the fear or being punished or condemned. The constitution of Kuwait states in Article 36: “Freedom of opinion and scientific research is guaranteed.”
Question: Recently a famous personality was coming to Kuwait but he was stopped because so many people tweeted against him. Wouldn’t these people get punished or are their tweets criminalized?
Fajer: It depends what they were tweeting. If they were just expressing their opinion that they did not want to attend this person’s music show, that’s fine. But if they tweeted accusing this person of a certain trait, or questioned this person’s ethics, or cursed the organizers, then yes, they can be punished depending on what has been tweeted and the damage of that tweet.
Question: I have read that there is a new law where the person retweeting is not responsible anymore for that retweet – only the person that tweeted a criminalized tweet is to be punished.
Fajer: It is not a new law but officials have stated that they will no longer punish those who are retweeting a tweet for the words included in the tweet. I am yet to see a judgment to such an effect and my opinion is that this defeats the purpose of the law. If someone tweets a tweet that is illegal in Kuwait and someone else retweets it, then we are spreading those words.
I am a strong believer in freedom of speech and believe that people should have the right to tweet whatever they want, but I really hope that we can all be kind to each other and not project our opinions on others. Whether punishable by law or not, let’s proudly own our social media pages and use our words wisely – let’s be kind, let’s inspire others.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed