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Freedom of the Press 2009 - Kuwait

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 1 May 2009
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 - Kuwait, 1 May 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b27420ac.html [accessed 12 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 18 (of 30)
Political Environment: 21 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 16 (of 30)
Total Score: 55 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.

  • Freedoms of speech and of the press are protected under Articles 36 and 37 of the constitution, but only "in accordance with the conditions and in the circumstances defined by law." The law prohibits and demands jail time for the publication of material that insults God, the prophets, or Islam, and forbids criticism of the emir, disclosing secret or private information, and calling for the regime's overthrow. Any citizen may press criminal charges against an author who they believe has violated these bans.

  • The law requires newspaper publishers to obtain an operating license from the Ministry of Information (MOI). In March, the MOI revoked the licenses of two weekly newspapers and fined their editors, one for "besmirching the prime minister's reputation" and the other for publishing political articles in a newspaper whose license limited it to covering arts and culture.

  • The government censors and prosecutes the media for reporting on certain prohibited religious and political topics. The MOI screens all imported media for morally offensive content, and controls the publication and distribution of all materials classified as informational.

  • As the risk of fines, arrest, and imprisonment must be factored into reporting, journalists and publishers continued to practice self-censorship. In at least one instance a journalist has been arrested for a comment made by someone else in an online forum that the journalist hosted.

  • International news is widely available, with a number of international media outlets operating bureaus in Kuwait. News sources originating outside Kuwait must be reviewed by the MOI before circulation, and the government continued its 2007 ban on the import and circulation of several Egyptian newspapers.

  • The country had 14 Arabic and three English-language daily newspapers, all of which were privately owned. Print outlets in Kuwait are largely independent and diverse in their reporting, and rank among the most outspoken and aggressive in the region.

  • The state still owns a number of broadcast outlets, with nine local radio stations and four television stations. However, there are now 11 privately owned television stations.

  • An estimated 34.7 percent of the population used the internet in 2008. The government monitored internet communications for defamation and security threats, and the Ministry of Communications (MOC) continued to block websites deemed to "incite terrorism and instability." Internet service providers (ISPs) are required to block other websites as directed by the government, and internet cafe owners must collect customers' names and identification numbers and pass the information to the MOC upon request. During the year a new internet censorship law was proposed that would place greater restrictions on websites and blogs. However, at year's end no further action had been taken.

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