Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 18 (of 30)
Political Environment: 21 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 15 (of 30)
Total Score: 54 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

While Kuwait's revised 2006 Press and Publications law extended some important protections and licensing opportunities, the government continued to censor and prosecute the media for reporting on certain prohibited religious and political topics. Freedom of speech and freedom 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 2006 press law prohibits the publication of material that insults God, the prophets, or Islam, as well as forbids criticism of the King, disclosing secret or private information, or calling for the regime's overthrow. Any citizen may press criminal charges against an author whom they believe has violated these proscriptions. Penalties for criticizing Islam were increased under the new publication law and can include prison sentences of up to one-year and fines up to 20,000 Kuwaiti Dinars (USD$69,000). The government occasionally imposed these press penalties in 2007. On August 18, Bashar al-Sayegh, the editor of the daily Al-Jarida, was arrested and charged with insulting the emir based on a comment posted by someone else on an open forum news website he was hosting. Jassim al-Qames, another editor of the paper, was arrested, beaten, and detained for photographing the arrest of al-Sayegh. The two journalists were released days later after being interrogated, and the person responsible for the comment, Nayef Abdullah al-Ajmi, was arrested on August 21.

In general, the Ministry of Information (MOI) does not actively interfere or restrict access to local or international news, and the Kuwaiti media are considered more critical and outspoken than in the rest of the region. Greater in-depth reporting and a wider diversity of opinions appear more often in newspapers than in broadcast mediums. Nevertheless, given the ongoing restrictions in the new Press and Publications Law, journalists continued to practice self-censorship. International news is widely available, with a number of international media outlets operating bureaus in Kuwait. News sources originating from outside Kuwait must be reviewed by the ministry before circulation. In September, several Egyptian newspapers were banned from circulation due to articles considered injurious to Kuwait. The MOI can censor all books, films, and periodicals it deems morally offensive. A three-day ban on Arabic daily al-Watan was imposed for the publishing of an "indecent photo" of the granddaughter of Saddam Hussein in a swimsuit. In March, the popular television show al-Diwaniya was taken off the air temporarily for broadcasting an episode on Arab blogs, and a television series was banned in September for its representation of Shiite beliefs and practices. The offices of both MBC and Al-Arabiya Satellite Channel were attacked with rocks in September. While they could not confirm the reasons for the attacks, they reported having received numerous calls to ban the television series considered offensive to the Shi'i faith. Charges were filed against two weekly newspapers and their editors in May for articles on corruption: ten complaints were filed against Al-Abraj for an article blaming the prime minister for Kuwait's poor score in Transparency International's corruption index; and three separate cases were brought against Al-Shaab for publishing an article on politics when it was only licensed to cover arts and culture.

Kuwait has nine Arabic and three English-language newspapers, all of which are privately owned. Private media have relatively transparent media ownership. All publishers are required to obtain an operating license from the MOI in order to launch a daily under the new press law; however, the MOI must now issue the license or provide an explanation for its refusal within 90 days of application, and those denied licenses can appeal such action in court. In addition, media-outlet licenses may not be revoked without a court order. Despite the fact that the new law requires a minimum capital of 250,000 dinars (US$950,000) to establish a paper, the government licensed six new daily Arabic-language newspapers in 2007 for the first time in thirty years. The old Press Law of 1963 had limited the press to five dailies. Private newspapers have their own presses and are free to set their own prices. The government has started to license private television and radio stations such as the satellite television news channel Al-Rai, but the state still owns the majority of broadcast outlets, with nine local radio stations and four television stations. While the advertising market is still limited, it continues to grow due to an increase in advertising agencies. Wage levels for journalists of both state-operated media and private media were not high enough to discourage occasional acceptance of bribes to influence coverage. Low salaries have also discouraged many Kuwaiti nationals from pursuing the field of journalism; at the end of 2006, only two percent of media workers in the local media sector were Kuwaitis. Of Kuwait's population, 32.6 percent utilized the Internet in 2007, reflecting a growth rate of 444.5 percent since 2000. The government continued to debate how best to regulate this growing means of communication. The state already requires all Internet service providers to install and operate systems to censor websites to block material deemed anti-Islamic, extremist-Islamic, or pornographic, as well as certain types of political websites. However, the website blocking policies were not always clear or consistent. Internet cafe owners are required to obtain the names and identification of Internet users and must submit the information if required by the Ministry of Communication. At year's end, there was talk of a draft website censorship law to be presented to the parliament.

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