KUWAIT, April 25 Kuwait's prime minister has
offered to drop a proposed media law widely criticised by
private newspaper editors as an assault on freedom of speech
that fuelled political tensions in the Gulf state.
The "Unified Media Law", which would steeply increase fines
on journalists deemed to have insulted senior ruling family
members and the state, was passed by the government this month.
But it still needs the approval of parliament, where some
lawmakers have expressed unease.
"If you are against the bill, it will be shelved," Prime
Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah told a gathering of
editors, state news agency KUNA reported late on Wednesday.
Kuwait's media are among the freest in the Gulf region and
the government generally tolerates more dissent, but in recent
months dozens of activists have been charged with insulting the
emir and several have been handed jail sentences, including a
prominent opposition politician.
The Kuwaiti stock market rose 1 percent in early trade on
Thursday and one analyst said this was due to the prime
minister's comments which suggested a willingness to compromise.
"This sent a message to reassure the media that the
political situation is stable and that the government seeks to
calm things, which will have a positive impact on the economic
environment," financial analyst Majdi Sabri said.
Kuwait's current parliament and cabinet have been more
cooperative than their predecessors, where a long-running power
struggle stifled investment plans. Market-watchers are keen to
see whether the improved political environment can continue.
New York-based campaign group the Committee to Protect
Journalists criticised the draft media law on Wednesday, saying
the legislation would severely undermine press freedom.
(Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Ahmed Hagagy; Editing by