The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today accused Kuwaiti authorities of intimidating the media after they closed down Al Jazeera's office in the county on Monday. The Government claimed the Qatar-based international broadcaster interfered in Kuwaiti internal matters in its coverage of police action to break up a meeting of political opponents.
‘We condemn this arbitrary order which aims at scaring media off reporting on political dissent in Kuwait," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Media have the right to report on current affairs of public interest nature. The claim of interference in internal affairs is a red herring."
Media reports say the authorities shut down the office of Al Jazeera in Kuwait on 13 December after it broadcast a report on the police action against opposition members of Parliament lawyers and human rights activists who had gathered at a private home on 8 December. The meeting which was to discuss the constitution of the oil rich kingdom was disrupted when police officers used violence to disperse the gathering, beating up participants, reports say.
The Kuwaiti Minister of Information has reportedly blamed Al Jazeera for interfering in the country's internal affairs in its coverage of events in Kuwait.
The IFJ says the show of force against a peaceful meeting and the subsequent ban on Al Jazeera in Kuwait raise concerns over the country's commitment to democratic rule and press freedom.
"When political space and free press are being curtailed, authoritarian rule is not far away," added White. "Kuwait must allow journalists to work freely and reopen immediately the Al Jazeera's office."