Monitoring bloggers proving elusive in Kuwait

February 11, 2010
By

Kuwait Blogging Society

Kuwait’s government will try next week to reach a consensus on proposed amendments to the media law as two ministries have reportedly said that they could not monitor or sue bloggers as a result of limited human resources and a lack of sufficient equipment, a Kuwaiti daily reported.

In technical reports submitted to the government, the communication and information ministries said that they could not deal legally with bloggers, explaining that they were hampered by their limited human resources and technological equipment, Al Jareerda said on Thursday.

The fact that some of the bloggers posted their views and news through international servers would undermine attempts to block them, the paper said, quoting unnamed government sources.

“Under the current laws and regulations, the communication ministry is in charge of monitoring electronic blogs. However, there is no specialized section in the ministry to monitor and follow online media and blogs,” the sources said.

Following street protests and inflammatory statements by disgruntled lawmakers in the aftermath of a television programmes that allegedly denigrated Bedouins and doubted their patriotism, the information ministry has put forward a series of amendments to the publishing and audio visual laws that, it insisted, would ensure greater responsibilities by publishers and bloggers in addressing national and regional issues.

However, the draft amendments waded into controversy after several media people rejected them.

According to the sources, divergences over the suggested changes also emerged within the government.

“One group of ministers believes that the suggested financial penalties were too high and that the prison clause to be added should be eliminated, especially that the ministry has not yet applied the law fully on media establishments,” the sources said. “But there is also another group that says that the media would not comply with the law if there is no legal deterrence.”

The cabinet will next week study again the suggested amendments and agree on a common view that it will send to the parliament, the sources told the newspaper.

Last month, Kuwaiti bloggers said that attempts to censor blogs were both unacceptable and futile.

“It will be very difficult for the government to censor or block blogs because most of the servers that contain them are located outside Kuwait. They do not fall under the jurisdiction of Kuwaiti law. And even if there is determination to block them, people can still access them via proxies. Governments cannot stop that and cannot identify those who access them,” Abdul Aziz Al Ateeqi, one of the country’s best-known bloggers said in anticipation of a possible “close monitoring” of online sites in the expected amendment of the country’s media law.

“There is a huge misunderstanding among Kuwaitis in general about what blogs really are. Blogs are a micro prototype of Kuwaiti society. They are like diwaniyas, places where people gather to discuss issues. People use them to speak their minds out and if someone is upset by a Member of Parliament he will write his feelings in his blog. These views and feelings are diverse and are about different matters. Political blogs represent less than 15 per cent of Kuwait’s blogosphere,” said Al Ateeqi, a co-founder of one of the biggest blogging aggregation website in the Middle East.

For blogger Mohammad Al Yousifi, the “censorship law is more laughable than it is scary because of the motive and process to monitor blogs.”

“How do they want to conduct this censorship? They physically cannot do it,” he said.

Blogger Amer Al Mutairi charged that some people, including MPs, were using the confusion caused by a controversial television programme to impose restrictions on bloggers.

“I think that, unfortunately, a large group of MPs support the media when it speaks favourably about them, but attack it when it criticizes them,” he said.

Kuwait in 2009 had the highest ranking in the Arab world on the Press Freedom Index issued by media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

 

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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