The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today joined its member in Kuwait, the Kuwait Journalists’ Association (KJA), in condemning the closure of al-Watan newspaper on 18 February on a court order for commercial reasons.
According to reports, the Ministry of Trade and Industry withdrew Al-Watan’s business licence last January, claiming that the paper held insufficient capital. Kuwaiti commercial law demands the closure of businesses reporting over 75 per cent of losses of its capital. Last week, the Kuwaiti Appeals Court upheld the decision to revoke Al-Watan’s commercial licence, whose doors have since been sealed.
The KJA’s board said in a statement that “the recent actions of the government are an attack on press freedom and freedom of expression and harm the statute of Kuwaiti journalism.” The KJA called on the government to honour the country’s longstanding support for press freedom.
The IFJ President, Jim Boumelha, backed the KJA saying that “The financial crisis in the print media must be dealt with in a different way. Closing newspapers will only aggravate the situation and cause a massive loss of media jobs”.
Boumelha also urged the government to allow Al-Watan to resume publishing. “This legal twist will inevitably undermine press freedom in Kuwait and restrict the diversity of information. We therefore call on the government to cancel its decision and to open a dialogue with the Kuwait Journalists Association and the press industry to agree on how to deal with this kind of crisis,” he added.
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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries