Reporters Without Borders urges Kuwait to lift gag on spy cell reporting

May 10, 2010

Press watchdog Reporters Without Borders has called upon the Kuwaiti authorities to lift a gag on publishing reports about a spy cell allegedly working for Iran’s Revolution Guards and busted by the security agencies.

“Reporters Without Borders condemns the prosecutor-general’s order forbidding the Kuwaiti media to publish any more reports about the dismantling of an Iranian spy network,” the Paris-based international watchdog said on Monday. “It is right that the police and judicial authorities would be free to work on this case without being under any pressure, but it is hard to see how the press would put any pressure on them,” Reporters Without Borders said.

This ban constitutes a serious obstruction of investigative reporting, an essential component of quality journalism in a country that claims to be democratic, it said.

The busting of the espionage ring, reportedly made up of Kuwaiti, Arab and Iranian nationals and of stateless Arabs was revealed by Kuwaiti daily Al Qabas on May 1.

The paper and subsequent reports in other media said that the cell was tasked with gathering information about Kuwaiti and US military sites and movements in liaison with an Iranian diplomat.

The government came under pressure from MPs to divulge all the facts about the cell amid threats to hold a special parliamentary session to debate the issue. Tension escalated with Iran after MP Mohammad Al Hayef called for the expulsion of the Iranian envoy in Kuwait and the recall of the Kuwaiti ambassador in Tehran. The MP also called for freezing all accords with Iran, but his calls waded into controversy as MPs differed over their merit.

Tehran has repeatedly denied any involvement in the spy network and said that the claims were fabricated lies targeting Iran.

Both its ambassadors in Kuwait and Bahrain said that Iran was keen on good neighbourly relations with the Gulf countries and that Tehran was not involved in the cell.

Prosecutor-general Hamed Saleh Al Othman on May 4 imposed the gag “to allow the police and judicial authorities to work calmly and impartially on the case.”

All newspapers complied with the ban and were joined by the country’s leading online news website, Al Aan.

“Even though, we are not technically covered by the gag since the media law does not include online journalism, we will comply with the instruction to help with the investigations,” the site said.

Reporters Without Borders was founded in 1985 in Paris. It says that its objective is to defend journalists and media assistants and to fight against censorship and laws that undermine press freedom.





About the author

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

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