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Kuwait jails journalist 14, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
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A Kuwaiti journalist has been jailed for 6 months for slandering Kuwait’s Prime Minster Sheikh Nasser Al Ahmed Al Sabah. Apparently, in a public gathering he said that he was “incapable of running the country” and he called on the PM to resign. Just imagine if such an absurd, petty and damaging standard was applied in the West.

Reporters Without Borders reports that Al Jassem, the journalist in question, is the subject of five lawsuits by the PM and the information minister. As a result of one of these suits he was fined $9500 along with the paper that published his article accusing the media of supporting the PM in fermenting Sunni-Shia tension in Kuwait.

Al Jassem was also encouraged to leave the country by Kuwait’s national security chief.

Kuwait’s Prime Minister is a nephew of the current Emir and has been forced to resign five times (I think) because of serious questions about his decision making as well about a cheque for $700,000 which he gave to an MP. Yet, rather than submit himself to the ‘indignity’ of being questioned by MPs as they requested, the Emir has dissolved Parliament three times in recent years.

Rather than dissolve Parliament for a 4th time to avoid wholesale paralysis of the Kuwaiti Parliamentary system and even the potential semi-permanent dissolution of the Parliament at a whole (as in the 1980s) he was questioned by MPs. Yet clearly the key issue remains: various Royal’s inability to get over the notion that they not actually divinely mandated beings and deal with people on a day-to-day basis.

In highlighting and provoking this kind of backward, regressive and wholly out-dated thinking, Mohammed Abdel Qader Al Jassem deserves neither jail nor a fine but the proverbial keys to Kuwait City. You can follow his blog at http://aljasem.org/

Rabat’s reaction to Al Jazeera 8, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, North Africa, Qatar.
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I hope to start listing the reactions from around the Arab world to Al Jazeera. In the past, these have ranged from the withdrawal of Ambassadors to the shutting down of electricity in main cities to avoid citizens watching an Al Jazeera documentary.

Here is Doha’s Centre for Media Freedom commenting on the Moroccan authorities:

The Rabat appeal court reduced the fine against Hassan Rachidi, Al Jazeera’s former bureau chief in Morocco, for “putting out false information” to 30,000 dirhams (about US$ 3,600) yesterday.

The ruling came a year to the day after the satellite TV channel’s frequency was withdrawn, which meant its North African news programme could no longer be broadcast from Rabat.

The Moroccan authorities charged Rachidi under article 42 of the press law after he reported on air that several people had died in clashes between police and inhabitants of Sidi Ifni, in the south of the country, in June. The journalist quoted inaccurate statements made by a human rights organisation.

Although the channel later issued a denial, Rachidi was fined 50,000 dirhams and the communications ministry withdrew his accreditation. He has since left Morocco and gone to work at Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar.

“Al Jazeera’s presence in Morocco is particularly important because it challenges other governments in the region which refuse to let the channel in”, the Doha Centre said. “Its journalists must be allowed to work freely.

“Unfortunately, the decisions taken against Al Jazeera by the Rabat authorities in 2008 were a sign of growing official tension against the channel. The sudden, groundless ban on the regional news programme broadcast from Rabat, which was an important platform for many Moroccan politicians and human rights activists, was a striking example.”

Al Jazeera opened its Moroccan bureau in 2004 and launched the North African news programme two years later.