Update (November 10) below.
Expats in Kuwait had been exhorted the other day to stay out of the current opposition protests in the run-up of snap parliamentary elections on December 1. They were even threatened by serious consequences, such as huge fines and maybe even deportation, if joining still illegal demonstrations in the tiny oil-rich, feudal autocracy in the corner of the Persian Gulf. They are well-advised. There has never been freedom of expression in Kuwait and criticizing the Emir is a serious offense.
That applies even for the royals. As Kuwait’s English language tabloid Arab Times, quoting Annahar newspaper, reports today, two unidentified members of the ruling family had been summoned for interrogation by the Public Prosecution for offending tweets against Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. It seems so that the Emir himself had filed the complaints against the suspects who had gone underground and might even have left the country.
The Emir must be thin-skinned these days. Only a couple of days ago, the Information Ministry had amended some aspects of the penal code in the “Law on Protection of National Unity”, notably on social media, which the Information Ministry had said it wanted to regulate. In an expansion of the previous definition, incitement of strife in “print, visual or audible” form, including social media, is now illegal as is expression of hatred or contempt towards “any groups in the community.”
The Emir is walking a tightrope after his recent decree for changing the electoral law with just two purposes in mind: to increase the likelihood for eventually getting a pro-government national assembly and once and forever end this nuisance of grilling his ministers. Even the promise that the new parliament might revise the electoral amendment is just appeasement, since numerous heterogeneous factions of what is the opposition in Kuwait (amazingly, both Islamists and all kinds of liberals) have announced already a boycott of the election.
8 November 2012 @ 10:31 am.
Update November 10. As Arab Times discloses today, “Sheikh Abdullah Salem Al-Sabah and Sheikh Nawaf Malek Al-Sabah were arrested for expressing political views on Twitter.
“Sheikh Abdullah’s lawyer Al-Humaidi Al-Subaie said his client was arrested late on Wednesday and was expected to be questioned by the public prosecutor. The two young royals have written tweets sympathetic to the Kuwaiti opposition, which has been organising protests against an amendment to the electoral law seen as designed to produce a pro-government Parliament in a snap Dec 1 general election. Earlier, young royal Sheikh Meshaal Al-Malek Al-Sabah was detained for a few days in July for expressing political views deemed offensive.”