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Thu 16 Dec 2010 09:37 AM

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Media watchdog urges Kuwait to lift Al Jazeera ban

Reporters Without Borders says move in breach of Kuwait laws, urges journalists to be allowed to return to work

Media watchdog urges Kuwait to lift Al Jazeera ban
It marks the third time the Kuwait government has shut Al Jazeeras offices

Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the closure of Al Jazeera’s offices by Kuwaiti authorities.

"This closure violates the legal procedures and regulations in force in Kuwait," the Paris-based RSF said in a statement. "We urge the authorities to reissue Al Jazeera’s journalists with accreditation so that they can go back to work. Freedom of expression is guaranteed by Kuwait’s constitution."

The Doha-backed news network came under fire for airing live footage of anti-riot police attacking a public rally outside the city centre, in addition to broadcasting an interview with Musallam Al Barrak, a lawmaker who represents one of the main opposition blocs in the Kuwait assembly.

“The network refused to give in to the threat and proceeded with the interview in accordance with Al Jazeera’s policy of giving voice to all sides of a story,” the news channel said in an emailed statement.

“Despite Al Jazeera’s request, the Kuwaiti government failed to provide spokespersons to appear in the same program alongside Mr Al Barrak to give the government’s point of view.”

In a statement carried by news agency KUNA, the government confirmed it had revoked the station’s network licence and revoked the accreditation of its journalists.

The state blamed the television station for meddling in Kuwait’s domestic affairs.

It is the third time the Gulf country has closed down Al Jazeera’s offices in objection to its coverage.

Kuwait first closed the bureau for a month in 1999 when an Iraqi caller insulted Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, during a live show.

The local bureau was opened again two years later.

In 2002, the network’s offices were closed again after Kuwait officials deemed its local coverage to be biased against the Gulf state.  

The Qatar-based network has a record of tense relations with Arab countries over its coverage of sensitive political issues. In May, its Bahrain office was suspended and crew banned from travelling to the Gulf state after it accused the channel of flouting press rules.