KUWAIT, April 24 Kuwait should scrap plans for a
"repressive" new media law, the Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ) said on Wednesday, saying the draft legislation would
severely undermine press freedom.
As the government of the Gulf Arab monarchy faces ongoing
opposition protests, the law would steeply increase fines on
journalists deemed to have insulted the state.
The government passed the "Unified Media Law" earlier this
month and it now needs approval from parliament and the emir,
but the New York-based campaign group said it would mean
"inflated" fines as well as "unjustified restrictions on
election coverage, and ambiguous regulations for online media."
Kuwait's media are among the most free in the Gulf region
and the government generally tolerates more political dissent.
However, in recent months dozens of activists have been
charged with insulting the emir and several have been handed
The draft law proposes fines of up to 300,000 dinars ($1
million), up sharply from the previous maximum financial of
20,000 dinars, the CPJ said.
Insulting the emir or crown prince would carry the largest
fines. There would also be fines of up to 100,000 dinars for
insulting the constitution, the flag, harming public morals,
inciting crimes, harming relations with other governments and
slandering public servants.
The Ministry of Information has said that the law is
positive for journalists because it replaces prison penalties
for "secular offences" with fines, but the CPJ said: "the fines
are so steep that journalists could be sent to jail anyway..."
Kuwait's main private newspapers have also said the law
would violate free speech.
(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)