Kuwait Govt. Aims To Restrict Internet Freedoms

In 1998, while serving at the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington D.C, I was contacted by Mr. Eric Goldstein, Research Director, Middle East/Africa of Human Rights Watch for information concerning internet usage in Kuwait for an upcoming report he was authoring (The Internet In The Mid East And North Africa: Free Expression And Censorship).

I reported, with pleasure, to Mr. Goldstein that Kuwait did not possess any “laws or regulations that governed free speech online.” I was quite proud of that fact. I felt Kuwait was a vanguard of democracy and free speech in the Gulf.


The Kuwait Embassy Letter Published In The Report

Eight years later – there are forces working to restrict those same freedoms.

The Arab Times article:

Internet security
Later, the ministers discussed the final report on regulating the use of the internet and electronic publications in Kuwait, while the Information Minister Mohammad Nasser Al-Sanousi briefed the Cabinet on information security and safety when using the internet and managing websites. He also highlighted negative aspects related to the internet and how to overcome them through spreading awareness, and through educational, legislative, and technical means, thus allowing for optimum utilization of these technologies.

Bloggers and the “people power” revolution helped lead to the removal of corrupt elements in the government and made the “5 Constituencies” reform a reality. We eventually got our wish.

It is a part of Kuwait history we are all proud of.

However, it was only a matter of time before the elements that got seared by those freedoms demanded retribution.

The government didn’t exactly embrace the idea of thousands of people dismissing “controlled” newspapers by flocking directly to raw, uncensored, blunt political analysis and footage concerning corruption and the fight for constitutional freedoms on sites such as ‘Safat Square,’ among many other excellent websites. Therefore, they have decided to “regulate” the internet by imposing even more restrictions on free speech by discussing ways and means in which the “Press and Publications Law” can include clauses that will limit internet freedoms.

If the government continues on this path (i.e. legislation of internet use, limits on public assembly) it is going to help create an “external Kuwaiti opposition” (which we don’t have at the moment). This, in turn, will lead to more rhetoric and future civil unrest.

My advice to the government: Fix your leaky structure, live up to the ideals of the people, invest your resources in a wise manner, and propel us to the 21st century, instead of searching for endless creative methods of trampling on the Kuwaiti Constitution.

9 thoughts on “Kuwait Govt. Aims To Restrict Internet Freedoms

  1. I admire your posts, Amer. You are one of the Kuwaiti voices in the ‘blogging wilderness’ upholding democratic ideals and pushing for more freedoms, freedoms that are guaranteed by your wise constitution (as you wrote).
    And you write openly without an alias… that takes courage. Don’t stop doing what you are doing.

  2. Won’t work, Sanousi thinks his finger will stop the dyke from breaking, but the dykes already broken and flooded the country.
    The change has already occurred. A good majority of the Kuwaiti and non Kuwaiti demographic refer to blogs as their extended social network for news, information and events.
    People dont like it when they are told who their friends can’t be, especially when it is the government.

  3. Even though it won’t work, there isn’t a single country on earth that does not have laws regulating internet usage. Each country has its own limits. Kuwait is no different.

  4. “Each country has its own limits. Kuwait is no different.”
    Yes, we have limits as well, notably filters blocking pornography.
    The issue being discussed is adding restrictions on free speech and the right to self expression.
    Most democratic countries do not arrest, prosecute, fine or jail individuals, block ISPs and cancel internet accounts.
    If blogs and websites get included under the “press and publications law” you will not be able to criticize “brotherly states,” “government leaders,” (among dozens of other clauses) and focus on corruption, social ills, and the like. The government will be able to prosecute you and impose fines.
    Bloggers that like to compare Frappucino flavors, talk about Pamela Anderson’s implants, and review different kinds of sushi, have nothing to worry about.
    But for us “political bloggers” it is a big deal.

  5. “The issue being discussed is adding restrictions on free speech and the right to self expression.
    Most democratic countries do not arrest, prosecute, fine or jail individuals, block ISPs and cancel internet accounts. ”
    This is not true. There is a well-known case of a Saudi studying in the States being legally prosecuted for hosting an unmoderated forum were people posted comments that the State Attorney deemed they incited terrorism.
    The point being is that there is no total freedom of thought and speech on the internet allowed in any country. If the freedom is not total, that means there are restrictions regulated by the respective legislative bodies. Those restrictions vary from one country to another, but they exist.

  6. I might add that thousands of internet accounts have been cancelled in so-called democratic countries because of speech thought inappropiate by ISP’s.

  7. Great post Amer. Personally, I’m not worried about them including the internet under the Publication laws. As many other laws the government just does not implement them, they get approved and nobody follows up on them. A clear example is the Intellectual Property Rights law , its been enacted into law for years now Hawalli is thriving with illegal copies of all sorts of movies and software… more so than before the law was in place.
    What does worry me is that the Cabinet of Ministers takes the time to discuss a strategy to infringe upons peoples freedoms and rights instead of taking the time to solve there mismanagement issues: water shortages, blackouts, low productivity rates from ministry employees, abhorent medical service in the country, antiquated education methods in the schools , upgrading the oil sector , firing the corrupt undersecretaries off nearly every ministry …. the list goes on and on… the last thing they should be focusing on is pissing the people off even further.

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