IFJ Warns of "Chilling Threat" As Kuwait Jails Leading Journalist

The

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for the immediate

release of leading Kuwaiti journalist and lawyer, Mohamed Abdel Qader

Al-Jassem, who is detained in Kuwait

City prison since 16 May

on subversion charges following his arrest by the country's security agents

five days earlier. He is the first journalist to be jailed for exercising his

right to press freedom.

"The case of

Al-Jassem is a chilling threat to press freedom in a country which is

considered as progressive," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The use

of the courts to resolve media disputes opens the door to censorship and political

meddling in journalists' affairs."

Reports say

Al-Hashem was arrested and detained on 11 May by officials from Kuwaiti

national security services. He was interrogated about articles published

earlier on his website. The journalist was said to have gone on hunger strike in

protest. He was taken to hospital and reportedly subjected to forced feeding.

On 16 May,

he was put on a 21 days detention order for subversion by the country's general

prosecutor and transferred to the main prison in Kuwait City.

He is due to appear in court on 5 June.

The Kuwait

Journalists Association (KJA), an IFJ affiliate, has also rejected the

detention and called for his immediate release on health grounds.

The IFJ,

which is backing the KJA, says Kuwaiti authorities must pull back from

confrontation with media and journalists who are critical of the leadership in

the oil rich kingdom.

"The

authorities face a test of their commitment to press freedom and their

tolerance of independent journalism," added White. "Nothing short of the

immediate release of Al-Jassem will demonstrate their ability to pass that

test."

For more information

contact the IFJ at     +32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists

in 125 countries worldwide