Kuwait Formulating Laws To Monitor Social Media: Report

on April 29 2012 8:59 AM

In an alleged bid to curtail freedom of speech, Kuwait is formulating a set of new laws to monitor the usage of social media, Bikya Masar has reported.

According to the Egypt-based publication, stiff penalties will be imposed on those who use networking sites to insult Islam, Prophet Mohammed or his wives, with the worst punishment implying death. Comments that incite defamation of Islam on social websites will also be deemed punishable.

Mohamed al-Mubarak al-Sabah, the information minister of Kuwait, said Thursday that several governmental agencies would soon be commissioned to regulate the use of new websites and that the proposal for criminalizing cases for blasphemy would help ease sectarian tension and deter any future attacks on Islam, the report said.

Debates on capital punishment have been ongoing, with the Kuwaiti National Assembly provisionally passing a decree April 12 that stipulates death penalty in cases of religious blasphemy. The proposed amendment is awaiting a final vote from the Parliament Thursday, the publication said.

According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), a Cairo-based NGO, all Kuwaiti nationals, especially the Muslim segment, will fall under the proposed penal code. However, lawmakers are now urged to reconsider the bill, and examine if the proposal will fall in line with the rights and freedoms in the country.

This law pulls freedom of opinion and expression a hundred steps back in Kuwait, as it will restrict freedom of expression significantly, and will make all citizens threatened with death, based on their opinions and what they write, as on the other hand the law can be used by authorities to get rid of opponents, as it's a vague expansion of the use of the words, such as daring or abuse, ANHRI said in a statement on the NGO's website.

According to the English Al-Akhbar, several individual have already been charged for the alleged blasphemy on social media websites. Earlier in April, a local Muslim writer received a sentence for seven years in jail and was summoned to pay a sum of $18,000 after posting a series of tweets insulting the Shia minority.

Passing the amendment for death penalty would be a major set back for Kuwait's constitution, the Amnesty International said. The International Human Rights Watch said that death penalty was not applicable for crimes against religion and that the violations were not categorized with most serious crimes under International standards.

We urge Kuwait's parliament to reject such an amendment which would constitute a flagrant breach of the country's international human rights obligations, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program Ann Harrison said, according to the organization's website.