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Local Al Jazeera office shut down

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 14 December 2010 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has denounced the recent closing of the Al Jazeera office in Kuwait and the withdrawing of all licenses and permits given to its reporters in Kuwait. This incident takes place against the backdrop of the coverage of the security assault on Kuwaiti Parliament members.

Opposition Parliament members held a seminar on 8 December to declare solidarity with another MP whose protection was lifted earlier. Security agents raided the meeting venue, assaulted the Parliament members and forcibly dismissed them.

Al Jazeera aired the incidents, as well as a declaration by an MP who attended the seminar and criticised the security assault. He explained that there is a plan to physically attack opposition figures. Following that, the Kuwaiti government sent a letter to the station's management accusing it of "interfering in the internal affairs of Kuwait", following which the government closed the broadcaster's office and withdrew all permits that had been issued to Al Jazeera reporters.

Al Jazeera's office in Kuwait was closed for three years, from 2002 until 2005, for covering arrangements for the Iraqi invasion.

ANHRI expressed deep sorrow for the assault on Parliament members for expressing their opinions and for the closing of the Al Jazeera office for doing its work. ANHRI warns the Kuwaiti government against this continued oppression. The Kuwaiti Parliament can no longer be trusted as a legitimate independent body and things cannot get any worse.

ANHRI said, "Closing Al Jazeera does not relate to the allegations of the Kuwaiti government. Closing the channel's office has got only one reason: doing professional, impartial media work and covering incidents of assaulting Parliament members in a transparent manner. This is a severe violation of freedom of expression and all international conventions."

ANHRI added, "Freedom of expression is about to completely collapse in Kuwait as security agents have assaulted Parliament members and forcibly ended their meeting. Considering that Parliament members, who enjoy protection, are unable to hold a peaceful meeting and express their opinions safely, we wonder about the safety of media, activists and indeed all citizens."

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