Kuwait’s new eMedia law sets forth a slate of regulations controlling the online activities of journalists, writers and activists. Though far reaching when it comes to control issues of free speech, it fails to recognize a growing body of online crimes committed via social media, websites and blogs in Kuwait.
It needs only a glance through the many online classified websites in Kuwait to see people engaged in promoting illicit activities including the selling of sponsorships and visas, selling of apartment leases and even the selling of domestic helpers.
Selling visas online
Kuwait Times visited several online classifieds and other websites to see how brazenly some are engaging in illicit activities. On one account, we found and contacted a visa trader offering to sell a work visa for KD 1,800 for Indians.
After bargaining with him, he agreed to sell the visa for KD 1,600. “This is the least I can take. My profit is only KD 200. The Kuwaiti sponsor will not take anything less than KD 1,500,” he claimed. When asked if he knows the consequences of selling visas, he said “no”. “I don’t think there is anything wrong. I am not duping people, but only trying to link them up with sponsors,” he said. But after talking to Kuwait Times, he removed his contact number and replaced it with an email address.
Loans with interest
In a similar development, Kuwait Times called an Asian man named Akhil who placed an advert on a website forum seeking KD 400 – offering to give 10 percent interest per month. When asked why he opted to source the money this way, he said that he is not eligible for a bank loan. “I have some issues. I just need this KD 400 to clear things up and get back on my feet again. I don’t mind giving you my passport to keep (as collateral) until I pay you the money back,” Akhil said. He also claimed ignorance over the legality of his action.
Most property crimes are also becoming ‘cyber’ one way or another. In an online ad, a tenant (who is leaving for good) offered to rent his two-bedroom apartment provided the person buys all his household items. “This is a good deal. I am paying only KD 180 for this flat. I can let you have it in my name. If you contact the haris (caretaker), he will take at least KD 250 from you before he even rents the apartment to you, while new tenants are now paying KD 260,” Imran said as he showed Kuwait Times his household items, which he offered to sell for KD 180.
There are obvious things such as illegal drugs and weapons that are forbidden everywhere. Other items are more complicated, however. Some countries allow you to sell alcoholic beverages over the Web, while in other states (like some Arab countries), doing so is a crime. “Always do the right thing and keep safe. If you think that your online store may cover questionable legal territory, talk to an attorney – there’s no point taking a chance on jail time or even fines if you break the law,” advised Saleh Al-Husseini, a Kuwaiti attorney.
By Chidi Emmanuel