Kuwait: Al Watan TV Closed for Liberal Editorial Line Just Months after Closure of Dar Al Watan Newspaper
On 6 July 2015, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (SR FRDX) on the case of Al Watan TV, which has been subjected to reprisals, including the withdrawal of its licence and the closing of its premises for political reasons. Alkarama feared the closure of the TV channel since its sister company, Dar Al Watan Journalism Printing and Publishing, which belongs to the same media holding as Al Watan TV, was closed earlier this year in March 2015.
For the past year, the status of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Kuwait has significantly deteriorated, as exemplified by the cases of Al Watan TV and Dar Al Watan. The decisions to close the TV channel followed the same process as the newspaper, which had its licence revoked by an administrative decision, following which authorities closed the premises of the newspaper despite ongoing judicial procedures challenging the decision.
The same "official" reason was given by the authorities in both the Dar Al Watan and the Al Watan TV cases – that is, that the companies "did not meet their financial and commercial requirements to keep their licence to publish and broadcast." Alkarama believes, however, the proceedings carried out against the newspaper and TV channel are purely of political nature and constitute an abuse of power from the executive.
In its urgent appeal to the SR FRDX, Alkarama submitted that the executive's decision against Al Watan TV disrespects both international human rights law and Kuwait's national legislation. Kuwait's Law on Information does not mention particular financial requirements for companies to keep their media licences and, furthermore, domestic law also requires a court order to revoke these licences, which was not issued in any of these cases, as Dar Al Watan and Al Watan TV were both closed following an administrative decision.
Alkarama also argued that the purely political motives of the decisions constitute a severe violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) binding upon Kuwait by virtue of its ratification in May 1996, which states that: "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice." This provision imposes on States parties an obligation to guarantee the independence and editorial freedom of news agencies.
In consequence, Alkarama asked the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression (SR FRDX), David Kaye, to intervene urgently with the Kuwaiti authorities, reminding them of their commitments under international law and requesting that they cancel their decision against Al Watan TV and Dar Al Watan. Both news outlets should be allowed to re-open their facilities and resume their activities immediately, since the measures taken by the authorities are violating, not only their international obligations, but also their domestic law.
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