Kuwaiti journalists will be fined up to KD300,000 ($1.05m) for criticising or misquoting the Emir or the Crown Prince under a draft media law approved by the Cabinet, according to local Arabic newspapers.
Journalists must also seek permission before quoting either of the royals, while fines of between KD10,000 and KD100,000 would be issued for those found guilty of revealing information from secret documents or meetings, regardless of their accuracy, Arabic daily Al-Anba reported.
The proposed law, approved by Cabinet on Monday, also includes a maximum 10 years’ jail for those found guilty of offending Allah, the Holy Prophets or Prophet Mohammad’s (pbuh) companions or wives.
The new regulations threaten to diminish Kuwait’s standing as the leader in media freedom in the Arab world, according to Reporters Sans Frontières, which ranked it top in the region in its World Press Freedom Index at number 60.
However, RSF also noted the country’s press freedoms were “insecure and fluctuated annually”.
Few details of the new law have been publicly revealed, however Al-Anba quoted anonymous sources that said the legislation applied to material published in print or broadcast media, including online.
A second Arabic daily Al-Qabas quoted a ministerial source as saying Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts also would be monitored for offensive messages.
In a statement published on Kuwaiti state news agency Kuna, Minister for Information Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah said the new legislation would “bolster” Kuwaiti media. “Any transgressions to media laws and regulations” would be addressed under the media-specific legislation rather than under criminal legislation.
The draft legislation must still be approved by the National Assembly.