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Kuwait: Revoke Order Shutting Down Al-Jazeera

Kuwait’s information ministry should immediately revoke Monday’s order closing the local Al Jazeera office indefinitely and revoking correspondents’ accreditation, Human Rights Watch said today. An information ministry spokesperson, Faisal al-Mutalaqam, told Kuwait’s official news agency that the station had covered recent events in a way that infringed upon Kuwait’s internal affairs. The local Al Jazeera correspondent, Saad al-Saeedi, told Human Rights Watch that the decision to close the station on December 13, 2010, was based upon the station’s coverage of the violent state security dispersal of a political meeting that included opposition members of parliament, university professors, and journalists, on December 8.

The government’s attempts to silence political dissent now extends to independent media,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Kuwait should permit Al Jazeera’s office to reopen immediately. Reporting on an issue the government doesn’t like cannot be reason to shut down a media office.”
More than a dozen people attending the meeting at a private home were injured as the security forces violently dispersed the meeting. Four of those injured were members of the Kuwaiti parliament. Videos posted on YouTube appear to show officers beating and kicking a Kuwait University law professor, Dr. Obaid al-Wasmi, particularly severely.

Kuwaiti authorities have demonstrated increasing willingness to crack down on opposition to the government. In November, the authorities imprisoned a journalist, Mohammad Abd al-Qader al-Jassim, on charges of criminal libel and defamation based on his blog postings criticizing Kuwait’s prime minister.

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