Newsletter No 13 10 January 2006
News from the Media Scene:
Approval of Kuwait’s New Press Law Adjourned

The approval of a proposed new press law that will end the government monopoly on newspaper licensing and will prevent prison sentences against journalists and the closing of newspapers without a court order was postponed, on 28 December due to lack of quorum in the Kuwaiti parliament.

Approval from the Assembly was expected on Monday 26 January, despite a lack of agreement over amendments concerning the jailing of journalists.

Although the final draft submitted by the Assembly’s Educational Committee on 17 December bans prison sentences for all but religious offenses and criticizing the Emir, some members considered that journalists imprisonment should be completely banned while Islamist MP’s called for increasing jail terms for religious offenses.

The discussed draft stipulates prison sentences up to a year for those who offend God, the Prophet, his wives and his companions. The new law, if approved, will also end the government monopoly over newspaper licensing since the most important amendment is to grant any individual whose publication license was rejected, the right to contest the refusal before the tribunals.

According to the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA, “a number of MPs urged approving the law for its ‘role in boosting Kuwait’s democratic life.”

Some members of Parliament expressed disappointment with the lack of interest in the new Press Law. “It is disappointing to know that government and MPs are not committed to their work... especially knowing the importance of the law,” MP Dr. Hassan Jowhar said told the Saudi daily Arab Times.

With only 31 MPs attending the session, the event was called off since a quorum of 32 is needed to hold a vote.

Parliament will be closed for three weeks due to the New Year and the Eid, and will resume on Jan 23.

Kuwait has five Arabic and two English language newspapers, but not a single daily has been launched in almost thirty years.