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Court strips two weekly newspapers of their licences, fines editors

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders deplores a Kuwait City criminal court's decision to withdraw the licences of two weekly newspapers, "Al-Abraj" and "Al-Shaab", in separate cases on 8 March 2008. The court fined "Al-Abraj" editor Mansur Ahmad Muhareb Al-Hayni and "Al-Shaab" editor Hamed Turki Abu Yabes 9,000 dinars (approx. 21,000 euros) each.

Hayni was convicted of "besmirching the prime minister's reputation" while Yabes was convicted of publishing political articles in a newspaper whose licence limited it to covering arts and culture.

"The relative freedom enjoyed by the Kuwaiti press must not be undermined," Reporters Without Borders said. "Since the start of the year, a website has been rendered inaccessible, a woman journalist has been threatened and two employees of the daily 'Al-Watan' have been the targets of lawsuits. The withdrawal of these two weeklies' licences can only aggravate the situation. We urge the authorities to reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression and to find a way to allow these two newspapers to continue publishing."

The case against "Al-Abraj" was brought by the information ministry over an article on 5 May 2007 headlined "More and more corruption" which blamed the prime minister for Kuwait's poor ranking in Transparency International's corruption index. Reached by Reporters Without Borders, Hayni condemned a deterioration in press freedom and accused the government of "politically eliminating journalists through the courts."

Three separate cases were brought against Yabes over allegedly political articles published in "Al-Shaab" on 17 May 2007, for which he was fined 3,000 dinars (approx. 7,100 euros) in each case. He told Reporters Without Borders he disputed the charges, saying the articles were about economic and social issues such as corruption. He said he planned to appeal.

Click here to read the chapter on Kuwait in this year's annual report on press freedom worldwide, which Reporters Without Borders issued on 13 February: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25430&Valider=OK

For further information on the "Al-Watan" case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/90556

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