Kuwait suspends two newspapers on tape scandal
April 20, 2014
Manama: A court in Kuwait on Sunday suspended two national newspapers for two weeks after they breached a gag ordered by the public prosecutor on publishing information in a highly controversial leaked tape.
The suspension occurred days after the information ministry warned that it would temporarily shut down the Al Watan and Alem Al Youm for not complying with the gag.
Al Watan on its website said there have been reports about the suspension, but it did not receive a formal notice.
Both dailies on Sunday published articles and views by several lawmakers opposing the idea of suspending newspapers for publishing articles.
However, the court did not seem to be affected by the pressure and ruled for their suspension.
The ministry last week asked all print, audio, visual and electronic media to comply with a gag order imposed by the public prosecutor in the case of the tape reportedly containing conversations referring to toppling the regime and contesting the Emir’s rights and prerogatives.
“The ministry will not hesitate to apply the law against those who do not comply with the order,” Salah Al Mubaraki, the undersecretary, said. “The application of the law is based on the keenness to ensure a thorough investigation and secure the higher interests of the nation. We therefore expect all media to comply with the prosecutor’s order,” he said early on Thursday.
The gag order, announced by Prosecutor Dharar Ali Al Asousi, barred all statements and disclosures to the media and social networks.
“The Public Prosecution is investigating Case 1241/2013 referred to it on December 26, 2013 and related to tweets claiming the existence of a recorded tape that contained information indicating that some people are conspiring to overthrow the regime and challenging the rights and powers of High Highness the Emir,” the Prosecutor said in a statement.
“The tweets also included baseless rumours that aim to undermine the higher interests of the nation. Since the circulation of these rumours in all media and social networks is undermining public order and social unity and is hurting the investigation by the prosecutor, we have ordered that the investigation in the case be conducted secretly and barred all print, audio and visual media as well as social media,” he said.
The Public Prosecution will inform all media about the outcome of the investigation as soon as it is over, he added.
The highly controversial case started in December when a tweeter posted on his account that Shaikh Ahmad Al Fahd Al Sabah, the former deputy premier for economic affairs and energy minister, had received an audio tape containing highly sensitive information about Shaikh Nasser Al Mohammad Al Ahmad Al Sabah, the former premier, and Jassem Al Khorafi, the ex-parliament Speaker.
When Al Khorafi heard about the claim, he categorically rejected the allegations made against him and the former premier, filed a case with the public prosecutor and pressed for a thorough investigation.
The tweeter was held for several days before he was released.
The prosecutor this week summoned Shaikh Ahmad as a witness to hear his version about what happened and about the alleged audio tape.
Shaikh Ahmad, a senior member of the ruling family, said after he appeared before the public prosecution investigating the alleged audio tape that he showed up as a witness and denied there was any tape.
However, he added that he did receive scattered recording on “local, parliamentary, [ruling] family, financial and regional issues” and that he dealt with them “in accordance with my patriotic duties”.