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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03KUWAIT2545 2003-06-10 14:13:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Kuwait
Cable title:  

KUWAIT MEDIA REACTION SPECIAL, JUNE 10: GOVERNMENT

Tags:   KU KDMR 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KUWAIT 002545 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INR/R/MR, NEA/ARP, NEA/PPD, PA, INR/NESA,
IIP/G/NEA-SA, INR/B
WHITE HOUSE FOR PRESS OFFICE
LONDON FOR GOLDRICH, PARIS FOR O'FRIEL
SECDEF FOR OASD/PA
CINCCENT FOR CCPA
USDOC FOR 4520/ANESA/ONE/FITZGERALD-WILKS
USDOC FOR ITA AND PTO/OLIA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KU KDMR
SUBJECT: KUWAIT MEDIA REACTION SPECIAL, JUNE 10: GOVERNMENT
FILES CHARGES AGAINST EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF LEADING DAILY

REF: KUWAIT (C)02293



1. SUMMARY: All media report that Mohammed al-Jassim, the
liberal editor-in-chief of Kuwaiti Arabic daily "Al Watan,"
was summoned to the office of the public prosecutor and
charged with "contesting the authority of the Amir," a
charge that can carry a five-year prison term, before being
released on bail. Media reports allege that al-Jassim
accused the ruling Al-Sabah family of interfering in the run-
up to the July 5 parliamentary elections. In a front-page
editorial in al-Watan, al-Jassim denies the charges as
politically motivated.

Al-Jassim has led local media opposition to a proposed press
law that would give the government wide powers to fine or
close newspapers (reftel.) The charges against him have
predictably unleashed a torrent of criticism by liberals and
conservatives against the government, led by al-Jassim
himself. "Referring me to the Public Prosecutor gives me
the freedom to express my opinion, " he writes in al-Watan.
"I want this to be an opportunity to judge the current
political situation in this country." END SUMMARY.



2. News Stories: All newspapers report on June 9 that
editor-in-chief of Arabic daily Al-Watan and Arabic
Newsweek, Mohammed Abdul-Qader Al-Jassim, was referred to
the Public Prosecutor following statements he made in the
diwaniya [men's gathering] of MP Jassim Al-Omar criticizing
the ruling Al-Sabah family's alleged intervention in the run-
up to the July 5 parliamentary elections.

On June 10, all newspapers report that Al-Jassim was
released on bail. Al-Jassim is accused of contesting the
authority of the Amir, a crime punishable by five years
imprisonment. Al-Jassim denies the charges against him.

On Al-Watan's June 10 front page, Al-Jassim says in
addressing the Amir: "I apologize to you for a crime that I
have not committed."

Al-Rai Al-Am front pages on June 10 the Minister of
Information, Ahmed Al-Fahd's comment on Al-Jassim's referral
to the Public Prosecutor: "[Al-Jassim's referral] was not
for an `opinion crime,' and does not pertain to the press
law, [but rather] to criminal issues that concern the
Ministry of Interior."

Following are reported reactions by prominent Kuwaitis:

--Secretary General of the Islamic Constitutional Movement,
Essa Majed Al-Shaheen argues that the decision "reflects the
government's impatience with opposing views and leads us to
fear for the future of freedom in Kuwait."

--Spokesman of the conservative Islamist Salafi Movement,
Abdul-Razzak Al-Shayji, warns against government
intervention in the elections, and states that the decision
to prosecute Al-Jassim violates rights to free expression.

--Islamist MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaie feared that the decision
would be the first step towards "muffling mouths," and
called on the government to retract its decision.

--Liberal MP Abdul-Wahab Al-Haroun called the decision "a
blatant violation of the constitution."

-- The Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Expression at
the Kuwait Graduates' Society denounced the referral of Al-
Jassim to the public prosecution on June 10.

Editorials:



2. "To Sheikh Sabah, with Best Regards"
Liberal Editor-in-Chief of Arabic daily Al-Watan and Arabic
Newsweek, Mohammad Al-Jassim, wrote (6/9): "I understand
the `political' reasons which forced the government to refer
me to the Public Prosecutor. It is, however, a decision in
my favor, since I will use it to stir public debate about
what is happening in Kuwait. I did not violate any laws
during the two seminars I participated in. I do admit,
however, that my `sin' is having said something that
displeased [Acting Prime Minister] Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad and
those around him. The government wants to instill fear in my
heart, and the hearts of others, in order to stop us from
disclosing the ongoing machinations. If reforming the
country could be accomplished by referring me to the Public
Prosecutor, I would not mind if Sheikh Sabah referred me
there ten times daily. Violating laws and listening to those
with ill intentions is the road to destruction, not reform.
I do not fear the Public Prosecutor's investigations or the
courts, for I have spent over seventeen years in these same
courts defending others. In fact, I feel homesick for this
setting where one enjoys freedom of expression without
political grudges. Referring me to the Public Prosecutor
gives me the freedom to my opinion. I want this to be an
opportunity to judge the current political situation in this
country. I will say what my conscious dictates, without
hesitation, regardless of who is pleased or displeased."



4. "No To Violating Freedom of Expression"
Liberal Editor-in-Chief of Arabic daily Al-Qabas, Waleed Al-
Nesf wrote (6/9): "We did not expect the government to take
such severe action against the freedom of expression and
opinion. Regardless of our differences of opinion with Al-
Jassim. we strongly reject any infringement on the right to
free expression. In real democratic countries, elections are
the most important occasion for candidates and voters to
express their opinions on the future of their country. We
hope the government has not taken such action against a
citizen just for expressing his opinion. Such an action is
wrong and unjustified."



5. "Do Not Make It a Prison Without Walls"
Fouad Al-Hashem wrote in independent Al-Watan (6/9): "The
referral of Al-Jassim to the Public Prosecutor. is the
result of the . newly proposed press law. What Al-Jassim
said does not constitute a quarter of what is said in the
diwaniyas [weekly men's gatherings]. What has happened to
us? Have we lost our patience [with differing opinions]? The
free world is watching, so don't make these nations regret
having shed blood for our freedom, and for having stood up
to dictators to preserve our democracy. Don't turn Kuwait
into a prison without walls."



6. "President Bush, Thanks For Not Visiting Us"
Liberal Managing Editor Waleed Al-Jassim wrote in
independent Al-Watan (6/9): "Thank you Mr. President for
not visiting us. We hope that you won't visit us any time
soon. Some may believe that I have suddenly turned against
America, but this is not true. Had the President visited
Kuwait. he would have heard about the government's attempts
to prevent freedom of expression, even during election
seminars-- one of the few remaining forms of democracy.
What Al-Jassim said is what people say in their homes and at
diwaniyas. The government's calculations are mistaken, as
usual, for this decision is turning into a public call for
freedom of expression."



7. "The Smell of Injustice Will Not Spread"
Liberal Editor-in-Chief of Arabic daily Al-Watan and Arabic
Newsweek, Mohammad Al-Jassim, wrote (6/10): "Kuwait today
is different from what people knew in the past because
politics have contaminated [the country] and the smell of
injustice had spread. The accusations against me can create
a bad image of Kuwait. However, Kuwait's image will not
change. and balance will be restored. With the return of the
political balance, the dust of agitation and hypocrisy that
obstructs vision will subside."



8. "Refer Us All To The Prosecutor"
Mubarak Al-Hajiri wrote in independent Al-Watan (6/10): "At
the same time as Kuwait is hosting the first Arab Media
Forum [held in Kuwait from June 7-10], we notice that our
government has disregarded transparency and is extending its
long arm to muffle mouths of people who are attempting to
find remedies for [Kuwait's] chronic sickness. We do not
want to be afraid to express our opinions, especially if our
opinions are aimed at reform. We stand beside Al-Jassim and
reject and condemn such actions against him."


JONES