KUWAIT: The National Assembly passed by an overwhelming majority during a January 13, 2016 session a new law to regulate all web-based publications including electronic news services, bulletins, websites of newspapers and televisions and the likes. Under the legislation, all these services must obtain a license from the government before they can operate.
Those in existence have one year to comply with the law. Violations committed by these services will be looked in court under the press and publications law, which stipulates hefty jail terms for several offences. The following is the complete transcript of the law, which was published in the ‘Kuwait Al-Youm’ national gazette’s February 7, 2016 issue:
In accordance with the constitution;
And the penal law issued by law no. 16 of 1960 and its amended laws;
And the law of procedures and penal trials issued by law no. 17 of 1960;
And law no. 40 of 1972 with regards to the cases of contestation in cassation, its procedures and its amended laws;
And the civil law issued by decree no. 67 of 1980 and its amended laws;
And decreed law no. 20 of 1981 to create a circuit at the comprehensive court to look into administrative disputes, amended by law no. 61 of 1982;
And law no. 51 of 1984 with regards to personal affairs and its amended laws;
And the judicial organization law issued by decreed law no. 23 for 1990 its amended laws;
And law no. 64 of 1999 with regards to copyright;
And law no. 3 of 2006 with regards to print and publication;
And law no. 61 of 2007 with regards to audiovisual media;
And decreed law no. 19 of 2012 with regards to protecting national unity;
And the companies law issued by decreed law no. 25 of 2012 and its amended laws;
And law no. 20 of 2014 with regards to electronic transactions;
And law no. 37 of 2014 with regards to creating communications and information technology, amended by law no. 98 of 2015;
And law no. 63 of 2015 with regards to fighting information technology crimes;
The National Assembly approved, ratified and issued the following law:
With regards to implementing the rules of this law, the following words and terms will have the meaning shown next to it:
Minister: Information Minister
Ministry: Information Ministry
Electronic Media: Activity that includes publishing or broadcasting items and forms of a media service of electronic content that is produced, developed, upgraded, dealt with, broadcast, published or reached through the Internet or any other communications network.
Electronic Publication: Copying, broadcasting, sending, or receiving electronic media activities through the Internet or any other communications network by using systems or electronic applications, whatever their nature is, and other means of modern technology for general use.
Electronic Domain: It is the domain registered on the Internet or any other communications network, and electronic sites are entered through it.
The site or electronic media facility: The page, link or electronic application that is issued within a certain time, and has a certain electronic address and domain, and issued or hosted or extends through the Internet or any other communications network.
Electronic content: Text, audio or fixed, moving or multimedia content which includes of any mentioned structure, which is developed, produced, upgraded or dealt with by electronic means or any type of content that is turned into electronic form, which is published and reached through the Internet or any other communications network.
Electronic paper: A site or electronic means through which electronic content that includes news, topics, columns and multimedia of journalistic or information nature is published, regularly or not.
Information or electronic commercial advertisement services: Content that includes promotion of works, services, products or individuals through the Internet or any other communications network.
Owner of the site or the electronic information media tool: The natural or juristic person to whom the site or the electronic information media facility is proven to belong to.
Responsible manager: The natural person appointed by the site owner or the electronic information portal, and he is responsible in front of administrative and judicial fields about the site’s or the electronic information facility’s content.
Blocking: Disallowing reaching the site or the electronic information facility.
The electronic media is considered one of the components of the information system in the country, and the freedom of its use is guaranteed for all according to the rules of this law, and there is no prior censorship on what is circulated of content via electronic sites and facilities.
A list of licensed websites and electronic media facilities is published at the ministry’s website, providing details for the licensee, the responsible manager, employees, and purpose of the website. The executive regulations of this law shall control polls carried out by licensed websites and electronic media facilities.
The state cares for electronic information sites and facilities that are under this law, and those working in them, and provides the necessary facilities to go along with the continued technological development of electronic media according to the organization of the executive rules of this law.
This law is applicable to the following electronic sites and electronic information media:
1- Electronic publication houses
2- Electronic news agencies
3- Electronic journalism
4- News services
5- Electronic sites, information service facilities and commercial advertisements
6- Electronic sites of paper newspapers and audio-video satellite channels
The rules of this law do not apply on the domain or facility or a personal electronic account, whose user is not characterized to be of specialized professionalism.
With consideration of rules of any other law, anyone who wants to establish or operate any sites or electronic information facilities mentioned in the previous article must obtain a license from the ministry, and the validity of the license is 10 renewable years at the request of the licensee and the ministry’s approval.
It is enough for electronic information sites and facilities that belong to the state authorities, its establishments, public authorities and any other government department, declared non-governmental societies, unions and associations established according to the rules of the law, to inform the ministry about the establishment of the site of the electronic information facility and name the responsible manager within 60 days from the date of starting working with executive rules with regards to established sites, and 60 days before establishment of the site or the facility, according to what the executive rules organize.
The application to get a license should be submitted to the ministry according to the form prepared for this, the applicant must meet the following condition:
1- Be a Kuwaiti, not less than 21 years of age.
2- Be of good repute, and not previously sentenced for a felony or a crime that violates honor or trust, unless his status was restored.
3- To name the site or electronic information facility, and it must not be in violation of public order or general or public decency or identical to the name of another site.
4- Must have a known premises specialized in the activity mentioned in the license.
Kuwaiti judicial persons can ask for the license to practice one of the activities mentioned in Article 5 of this law, provided that all capital be Kuwaiti with regards to the application for a license to carry out activities mentioned in items 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the same article.
Newspapers, audio and video satellite stations licensed by the ministry that wish to create a site or any electronic information facility can submit a copy of the license issued to them with the application.
The license applicant must appoint a responsible manager to represent him at the ministry, government departments or others, for the site or the electronic information facility. He shall be responsible for the content published in it, be it by him or others, and the responsible manager must meet the following conditions:
1- Be a Kuwaiti of not less than 21 years of age, totally qualified.
2- Must have at least a general secondary certificate or its equivalent.
3- Must be of good repute, and not been convicted for a felony or an honor violating crime, unless his status was restored.
4- Must not be a manager of another licensed site or electronic information facility.
If the license applicant is an individual, or a one-person company, he can be the responsible manager of the site or the facility if he meets the above conditions.
In case the post of the responsible manager becomes vacant, or he loses one of the conditions that he should have, the licensed person must appoint a replacement that meets the conditions within six months.
The licensee will be responsible for the site or the electronic information facility until the replacement is appointed during the designated period in the previous paragraph.
The minister issues a decision with regards to the license application within 30 days from the date of submitting the application that meets the legally requested conditions. If this period elapses without issuing a decision, the application will be considered rejected, and those concerned can appeal the rejection to the minister within 60 days from the date of rejection. If this period elapses without a decision, the appeal will be considered.
The license applicant for a site or electronic information facility must deposit a KD 500 guarantee at the ministry’s treasury within 60 days from the date he gets informed of approval of the license.
He can submit an unconditional bank guarantee in the name of the ministry, instead of the cash guarantee.
The ministry has the right to deduct from the financial guarantee what the licensed person or the responsible manager is committed to or fined financially or compensations for the ministry based on this law. The licensee must replace the shortage in the guarantee within six days from the date he is informed of this.
The licensee for any of the activities that are under the rules of the law must practice the activity within six months from receiving the license, and the ministry can extend this period by a maximum of an additional six months at the request of the licensee.
Any license rental will be null and void, and cannot be sold or waived without prior approval from the ministry, and the buyer or the person who receives the waiver must meet the conditions mentioned in this law to issue the license. The heirs of the licensee can ask for transfer of the license to them within one year from the date of death or to another person if the conditions are met.
The executive rules explain the data the license must have and the documents that must be attached to the license application, renewal and ownership transfer. The licensee must inform the ministry about any change in the data related to the site or electronic information facility or the responsible manager or its workers within three months from the change date.
The license will be revoked, without violating any other legislative text, under the following conditions:
1- If the licensee is a judicial personality, and his legal personality is over for any legally set reasons.
2- If the licensee loses any of the conditions mentioned in article 8 of this law.
3- If the responsible manager’s post becomes vacant, or if the appointed manager loses one of the conditions that he must meet, and the licensee does not appoint a replacement that meets the set conditions within the designated period in article 10 of this law.
4- If he licensee rents out the license.
5- If the licensee sells the license or waives it without the approval of the ministry.
6- If the licensee does not practice the licensed activity during the period mentioned in article 13 of this law.
7- If the license period ends, without a renewal request within six months of its expiry.
8- If the licensee dies, and does not have a legal heir, or if the heirs do not transfer the license within the period mentioned in article 14.
Along with the conditions mentioned above, the license cannot be revoked without a court order that must be implemented or a written request from the licensee.
The responsible manager for the site or electronic information facility is responsible for the violations of the rules of this law by the content, and he must seek accuracy and credibility in all what he publishes concerning news, information and data. He must publish, free of charge, any reply, correction or denial he receives directly or indirectly from the ministry or other government entities, or from any judicial or natural person, or who represents him legally, whose name is mentioned or indicated in writing, drawing or symbol, published in the site or the electronic media facility, on the date the concerned party or those concerned decide, in the same place and same method, language and size the material in question was published.
The sites and electronic media sites governed by the rules of this law, cannot publish, broadcast, rebroadcast, send or quote any content that contains any of the forbidden material mentioned in articles (19, 20, 21) of law no. 3 of 2006, and article 11 of law no. 61 of 2007, and punishments are mentioned in those two laws in case of violations.
Without violating the rules of the above article, the concerned court will fine everyone who practices any of the activities mentioned in this law without a license or violates any of the rules in it with a minimum of KD 500 and a maximum KD 5,000, and it is allowed to rule for blocking the site permanently.
The chairman of the felonies circuit, when necessary, and at the request of the public prosecution, can issue a decision to block the site or electronic information facility for a minimum of two renewable weeks during investigations or trial.
The minister issues a decision to determine authorized employees to check the violations of this law and explain the procedures followed in this regard.
The public prosecution – and none other – is concerned with investigating, conductance and contention of all crimes mentioned in this law.
The felonies circuit in the comprehensive court is the concerned court in considering all penal cases mentioned in this law, and its ruling can be appealed at the appeals court, and in exception of article 8 of law no. 40 for 1972, rules issued by the appeals court can be contested by cassation.
The penal case for the crimes mentioned in this law will be dropped if the public prosecution is not informed about them within three months from the date of its occurrence. The compensation case will be dropped if it is not submitted within one year from this date unless the penal case is ongoing, then the period starts from the date of its end or a final ruling on it.
All sites and electronic media facilities mentioned in article 5 of this law and list, when working under it, must reconcile their status according to its rules within one year from the date of issuing the implementation rules.
The text of the final court ruling and decisions to revoke licenses issued according to the rules of this law shall be published in the official gazette and the ministry’s electronic site.
The concerned minister issues the executive rules of this law within six months from the start of its implementation.
This law shall be published in the official gazette, and becomes effective on the next day from its publication.
Ministers, each in his capacity, shall implement its rules.
Deputy Amir of Kuwait Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Issued at Seif Palace on 23 Rabee Al-Akher, 1437 AH
Corresponding to 2 February, 2016 AD
Articles (19, 20, 21) of law no. 3 of 2006 on press and publications
Matters Prohibited from Publishing in the Print or the Newspaper and the Penalties
It shall be prohibited to meddle in matters related to God, the Holy Quran, Prophets, the Noble Companions of Prophet Muhammad, Wives of the Prophet, peace be upon him, or persons who are part of the Prophet’s family, peace be upon them, by meddling, defamation, slander, or mocking in any forms of expression that are stipulated under Article (29) of the Law No (31) for the year 1970 on Amendment of Some of the Provisions of the Penalty Law No (16) for the year 1960.
No challenge may be made to the person of the Country’s Emir of the State of Kuwait by criticism, and no statement shall be attributed to him except by a special written permission from the Amiri Diwan.
It shall be prohibited to publish anything that would:
1- Disdain or contempt the Constitution of the State.
2- Disdain or insult jurists or members of the public prosecution or to state something that is considered as a disparagement of the integrity and impartiality of the judicial system or to publish something which the courts or the investigating parties decide to maintain in secret. 12
3- Insulting the public morals or instigating to violate the public order or to violate the laws or to commit crimes, even if the crime did not occur.
4- News regarding official secret communications and publishing of agreements and treaties which the government of Kuwait concludes, before publishing them in the official gazette, except by a special permission from the concerned Ministry.
5- Influencing the value of the national currency or what would lead to worries about the economic status of the country or publishing news about the bankruptcy of businessmen or the commercial companies or banks or the money exchangers, except by a special permission from the competent court.
6- Revealing what goes on in any meeting or what is written in the papers or documents or decrees, or any papers or prints which the Constitution or any law decided that they are to be kept in secret or not to publish them, even if the published topic was true, and the publishing was limited to the official statements that are issued in that regard.
7- Infringement on the dignity of the persons or their lives or religious believes, and instigating hatred or disdain of any of the society’s strata or to publish information about their financial statuses or to reveal a secret which would harm their reputation or wealth or their trade names.
8- Encroachment into the private life of an employee or a person who is charged in a public service, or attributing statements or acts not true to him which would cause harm or insult to his person. 9- Causing harm to the relationships between Kuwait and other Arab or friendly countries if that is done through the press campaigns. 10-If the specialized newspaper went beyond the purpose of the license which is granted to it.
NOTE: An amendment to law no. 3 of 2006 on press and publications was published in ‘Kuwait Al-Youm’ national gazette’s February 7, 2016 issue, which adds material published online under publications covered by the law.