PARIS/KUWAIT: Kuwait’s press freedoms took a massive hit in 2016 according to the latest Reporters Without Borders ranking. Kuwait ranked 103 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index for 2016, dropping 13 spots from its 2015 position. The international press freedom organization warned that the world had seen a sharp increase in the global number of journalists detained or ‘disappeared’ and subject to other forms of political censorship or silencing.
Kuwait ranks better than neighbors Qatar (117), United Arab Emirates (119), Bahrain (162), Saudi Arabia (165) and Iran (169). But has lost significant ground in the last few years. The oil-rich emirate is known as the most political vibrant in the Gulf and has long had one of the most active media and press environment in the region. But the 103 ranking for 2016 pales in comparison to Kuwait’s 2009 ranking of 60 and indicates growing intolerance from the Kuwait government for any political criticism or commentary.
Freedom of speech and the press are protected under the Kuwait Constitution in Articles 36 and 37 but the 2006 Press and Publications law, the 2015 Cybercrimes law and the 2016 E-Media law place limits on press freedoms. Criticism of the Amir, Islam and the judiciary are punishable crimes as is any harming of Kuwait’s relations with other countries. In recent years, several journalists, bloggers and media activists have faced jail time.
“For the time being, the numerous UN resolutions on the protection of journalists [around the globe] and the fight against impunity have not given satisfactory results,” the RWB noted in the release of this year’s index.