By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
KUWAIT CITY: International media watchdogs condemned Tuesday the Kuwaiti government’s closure of Al-Jazeera satellite television’s office in the emirate for covering police use of force at a public gathering.
“Reporters Without Borders (RSF) firmly condemns the government’s closure of the Kuwait City bureau of the Doha-based satellite TV station Al-Jazeera,” the media watchdog said in a statement received by email.
“This closure violates the legal procedures and regulations in force in Kuwait,” said the Paris-based RSF.
“We urge the authorities to reissue Al-Jazeera’s journalists with accreditation so that they can go back to work. Freedom of expression is guaranteed by Kuwait’s Constitution.”
“A TV station should not be made to pay because of violent behavior by the police, especially when many websites covered the event, resulting in fierce criticism,” RSF said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also called on Kuwait to reopen the office of the pan-Arab news channel immediately and to reinstate the accreditations of its staff.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Information ordered Al-Jazeera office to close Monday, accusing it of interfering in the emirate’s internal affairs.
The channel had aired extensive coverage of the police crackdown on a gathering held by the Kuwaiti opposition December 8. It showed footage of police beating activists and aired interviews with members of the opposition following the clashes in which four MPs and a dozen citizens were injured.
Several opposition MPs have condemned the action, charging that it was part of a government policy to clamp down on freedom of expression.
Al-Jazeera has denied the charge of meddling in Kuwaiti affairs, saying it was just doing its job.
Three opposition MPs filed a motion Monday to question the prime minister in Parliament over the police action and alleged government clampdown on public freedoms.
Kuwait closed the Al-Jazeera office in November 2002 in the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq because it said the channel took a hostile stand against the Gulf state and for security reasons, before reopening it in May 2005.
The reopening followed an official visit by Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, whose country has often had problems with fellow Arab states over Al-Jazeera’s news coverage. – AFP