Kuwait shuts down critical television channels

Kuwait shuts down critical television channels
Concerns about a clampdown on critical media grew as the Kuwaiti government closed down three independent television channels.
2 min read
08 June, 2015
Al-Watan was one of Kuwait's largest Arabic dailies [AFP]

Three Kuwaiti TV channels have been taken off the air after the ministry of information cancelled their licenses.

According to state media al-Watan, al-Watan Plus, and al-Watan Ghanawi, were closed by the government on Thursday.

Police entered al-Watan offices and ordered out staff.

Kuwait's commerce and industry ministry said the decision to revoke the commercial licences of the company were due to the media group losing most of its capital.

The channels are part of the same media group as the newspaper al-Watan, and owned by former oil minister Sheikh Khalifa al-Sabbah.

In recent years, it became known for its critical coverage of the Kuwaiti government.

Al-Watan was closed by the government owing to "financial losses", and the business license of its publishing company Dar al-Watan was withdrawn.

Free speech

Under Kuwaiti law, licenses can be revoked if companies sustain losses of more than 75 percent of their capital.

Al-Watan had previously been suspended for two weeks after publishing the transcript of a recording regarding an alleged plot to depose Kuwait's rulers.

     The government denied that the closure of the newspaper was politically related.

Al-Watan's managing editor, Hossam Fathy, told the Committee to Protect Journalists earlier in the year that the closure was in response to the newspaper's critical coverage of the government.

The government denied that the closure of the newspaper was politically related, and in February a court rejected an appeal by the newspaper to reopen.

Kuwait recently ammended its censorship laws so that television programmes, such as dramas, are only reviewed by a censorship board after broadcast.

The country was one of the region's centres of publishing, owing to its relatively liberal media environment compared to other Gulf countries.

However, recent arrests of bloggers and the closure of newspapers have concern about a crackdown on free speech is in place and that the independence of the media is under threat.

Saleh al-Saeed, a Kuwaiti blogger, was given an extra two years to his four-year jail sentence in February for accusing Saudi Arabia of breaching the territorial integrity of Kuwait and Bahrain, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Kuwait was ranked 90th out of 180 countries in the monitoring group's press freedom index, down from position 60 in 2009.