Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Fear of Freedom | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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After twenty years of bitter conflict between government and parliament in Kuwait, regarding the press law, the two sides have agreed on a new law to be presented to parliament as a substitute to the old press law, which was issued before independence and prior to the adoption of the constitution. The new law represents a press revolution because it ends the monopoly of the five dailies and allows other newspapers to appear. The law also stipulates that journalists are not to be jailed. It strips the Ministry of Information and the government of the authority to intervene in disagreement and disputes and makes the judiciary responsible for such cases.

Compared to the press in other countries of the region, the Kuwaiti press is free. This freedom has embarrassed the government with other countries, especially Arab ones, in numerous instances. There are some who believe that attacks waged by various writers on some countries are blessed by the government. They do not realize that the criticism directed at the Kuwaiti government is more forceful and fierce than that reserved for outsiders and that the government cannot prohibit anyone from expressing their opinion.

There are fears chaos will reign if the law were implemented. Some individuals believe the country will become full of dailies representing all political persuasions and every group or political party will issue its own newspaper, especially since fifty applications have been submitted to the Ministry of Information, so far.

These fears are unfounded. People, by nature, fear what is new. They do not realize that, while a daily newspaper may be easy to publish, it is difficult to sustain. Daily newspapers nowadays belong to large corporations and require considerable capabilities. They also fail to understand that newspapers backed by political groups are bound to fail. Like government-controlled newspapers, the public does not trust them because they represent a single perspective.

Kuwait’s new press experience deserves to be followed-up. It is the first in the Gulf region. According to its positive and negative aspects, the future of the region’s press will be drawn. It is important we do not fear freedom and novelty. Undoubtedly, a press upsurge will take place after the new law is issued. The situation will soon stabilize and people will discover that freedom is the only option to end the crisis created by tension, criticism and personal attacks, so that everyone would be able to express themselves without fear.