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Media prevented from covering dismantling of Iranian spy ring

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the prosecutor-general's order forbidding the Kuwaiti media to publish any more reports about the dismantling of an Iranian spy network. The disbanding of the network, allegedly consisting of six Kuwaitis, two stateless Arabs employed by the army and various Arab citizens, was revealed by a media report on 1 May 2010.

"It is right that the police and judicial authorities would be free to work on this case without being under any pressure, but it is hard to see how the press would put any pressure on them," Reporters Without Borders said. "This ban constitutes a serious obstruction of investigative reporting, an essential component of quality journalism in a country that claims to be democratic."

The spy ring dismantled by the Kuwaiti security services was reportedly gathering information about Kuwaiti and US military bases for Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Prosecutor-general Hamed Saleh Al-Othman's ban on any further press coverage of the case was issued on 4 May. The online newspaper Al-Aan quoted him as saying the ban was necessary to allow the police and judicial authorities to work calmly and impartially on the case.

Kuwait's news websites are complying with the ban although, strictly speaking, they are not concerned as Kuwait's media legislation does not cover online media. Al-Aan announced on 9 May that it would carry no reports about the case except in the event of a major new revelation.

Although Iran has denied any involvement in the spy network, tension is mounting between the two countries, especially since Kuwaiti legislators asked the government to expel the Iranian ambassador.

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