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Draft amendments to press law threaten press freedom

(RSF/IFEX) - On 14 January 2010, Reporters Without Borders urged the Kuwaiti prime minister and parliament not to back amendments to the publications law that it said would pose a threat to freedom of the press.

Parliament is due to vote in the next few days, according to the website, on amendments proposed by the information minister, Sheikh Ahmad Abdallah al-Sabah.

"The adoption of these amendments by parliament would gag the Kuwaiti press and would conflict with the determination of the authorities in Kuwait to exemplify the democratic ideal in the Gulf", the worldwide press freedom organisation said in a letter to the prime minister and the speaker of the National Assembly.

The proposed changes would provide for prison sentences of one to two years for press offences and fines that could go as high as 100,000 dinars (about 240,700 euros).

Moreover in the case of insult to god, the prophet Mohammed, or members of the royal family, they toughen the existing law, with penalties of up to two years in prison (compared to one year currently) and fines from 100,000 to 200,000 dinars (compared to 20,000 dinars currently).

Any attack on the person of the Emir or incitement to separatism would mean prison sentences of up to one year, in addition to a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 dinars (compared to fines of 5,000 to 20,000 dinars currently).

The amendments also provide for prior censorship of broadcast media and various artistic productions.

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