x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Criticisms follow Kuwait court order to suspend Al Dar newspaper

Th publication is frozen after it had been charged with violating Kuwait's Press and Publications Law by "undermining national unity" and "creating sectarian strife"

International rights groups have protested a decision by a Kuwaiti court to suspend publication of a local newspaper for allegedly stirring "sectarian strife".

The Al Dar newspaper was ordered this month to suspend publication after it ran several articles in defence of the country's Shiite minority.

An employee at the newspaper told The National the ban applied for three months.

The New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the decision should be overturned.

Abdul Hussein Al Sultan, the editor-in-chief of Al Dar, told the CPJ the newspaper had been charged with violating Kuwait's Press and Publications Law by "undermining national unity" and "creating sectarian strife".

Mr Al Sultan was reportedly ordered to pay a 1,000 Kuwaiti dinar (Dh13,196) fine or face six months in prison.

The CPJ, quoting Mr Al Sultan, said the charges were over articles published by Al Dar critical of other newspaper articles that classed Kuwaiti Shiites as "Iranian spies" and "disbelievers".

Mr Al Sultan could not be immediately contacted for comment by The National.

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the CPJ's Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator, argued against the court's decision in a statement posted on the organisation's website.

"It's an egregious miscarriage of justice to find an editor and newspaper guilty of undermining national unity for articles defending a minority group that was under attack," he said. "We call on the judicial system to reverse this unjust ruling on appeal, and authorities to halt their harassment of Al Dar immediately."

The ruling against the newspaper marks the third time publication of Al Dar has been suspended by Kuwaiti courts in recent months.

New-York-based Human Rights Watch also condemned the suspension of Al Dar.

"Kuwaiti authorities should immediately end the suspension of the daily Al Dar and void the conviction of its editor for alleged incitement," the organisation said in a statement.

"This criminal punishment, for articles in which Al Sultan condemned other writers for insulting the Shia minority, is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression."