Recently, Kuwait took another major step on its path to political reform with the issuance of a new law for journalism two years after the current law was set. When I first joined the Kuwaiti parliament twenty years ago, I remember that the battle between government and parliament was intense when it came to press law. Tension between government and parliament continued for twenty years due to the government’s refusal of issuing any new law regarding the press.
The most recent law comprises of three main points, firstly, that the Council of Ministers can no longer shutdown any newspaper publication but will leave this decision to the judiciary that is well known for its tolerant and defensive attitude towards the press in contrast to the government. The second point is regarding the imprisonment of journalists, that journalists can now be fined rather than imprisoned. The final and most important point is the cancellation of press monopolization. In Kuwait, there are five daily newspapers and hundreds of weekly publications and under the new law, the publishing of more will be taking place. Fifty requests were presented to the ministry of information before the new law was issued.
There have been some claims that the new law may result in a state of “press anarchy” if more journals are to be issued. Others argue that powerful political parties are the most able in publishing more newspapers. These claims are refuted. In most democratic countries, where the application for establishing a publication can be made at the local post office, there are still only a limited number of newspapers. Journalism has become a major industry and establishing newspapers has become an easy task. Despite the straightforward method in starting up a publication, its success and maintenance are somewhat challenging missions. Furthermore, the impartial publications of political parties in the Arab world are failures. Their readership levels are low due to the lack of public confidence in them. Freedom of the press is one of the most important freedoms in any society. The intolerance of the “other” and pushing others to express themselves via other means is a grave mistake as the experiences of all civilized cultures have proved that freedom is the only guarantee of stability.