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TV station owner facing possible death penalty over comedy programme that parodied MPs

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns an armed attack on Kuwait City-based Scope TV, which was overrun by about 150 people brandishing knives and pistols on 17 October 2010. Some 10 people were injured in the course of the violence, the privately-owned satellite TV station's executive director told the news agency Reuters.

Employees said the assailants were looking for owner Fajr Al-Saeed and her brother, executive director Mohammed Talal Al-Saeed, who have been receiving death threats ever since the host of the talk show "Zain wa Shain" ("Good and Bad") alluded to a member of the ruling family on the air on 16 October.

The talk show host implied that this ruling family member, who is also a senior information ministry official, was responsible for the complaint that the ministry has brought against the station's owner, accusing her of "inciting the overthrow of the government" and "pressuring for a change of regime through use of force."

The charges were prompted by an episode in the comedy series "Sawtak Wasal" ("Your Voice Has Been Heard") broadcast during the month of Ramadan, in which puppets, dressed and talking like Bedouin, parodied members of parliament.

When owner Fajr Al-Saeed, who also produces the series, appeared before the public prosecutor on 14 October, he told her the case was being transferred to a criminal court. No date has so far been set for the trial, in which she is facing a possible death sentence or life imprisonment, according to her lawyer.

Deploring both the armed attack on the station and the information ministry's complaint against its owner, Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to issue an appeal for calm. They have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all of Kuwait's citizens. The charges against Fajr Al-Saeed must also be dropped.

"Sawtak Wasal" was initially banned after just three episodes on 25 August 2009 at the behest of the information minister, Sheikh Ahmad Abdallah al-Sabah.

An outspoken journalist and writer who has never shied away from controversy, Fajr Al-Saeed founded the Scope Centre for Artistic Production in 1993. She has specialised in producing theatre plays and TV series, launching Scope TV in 2007.

Meanwhile, the hearing scheduled for 18 October in the lawsuit brought against writer and journalist Mohammed Abdel Qader Al-Jassem by the emir's son has been postponed until 1 November. The verdict in the lawsuit brought against him by the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohamed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, is due to be issued on 19 October.

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